HUNTINGTON — An announcement by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice to postpone winter high school sports until Jan. 11 caught many around the state by surprise on Friday morning.
West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission executive director Bernie Dolan was not among those surprised, however, despite reports to the contrary following Justice’s announcement.
Dolan said he spoke with Dr. Clay Marsh, the state’s coronavirus expert, on Thursday evening about such a possibility.
“We did have a conversation and I support it,” Dolan said. “I look at the numbers. Yesterday, 44 of the 55 counties were orange or red by infection rate, so obviously something is going wrong and we need to (take) drastic measures.”
While measures are being taken for winter sports to push back its date, Dolan said the postponement or cancellation of the current high school football postseason has not yet been discussed.
“That’s assuming that we don’t get a whole lot worse between now and Dec. whatever for cheer and football,” Dolan said. “Every week is going to be a touch-and-go thing, I think. Right now, we’re saying go forward. If it continues to get bad, we may have to make another decision.”
Dolan added that Friday’s shift of winter sports back to after the start of 2021 extends a time window for fall sports to complete while also allowing the state to deal with the holiday season, which is expected to be a difficult stretch in terms of the spread of COVID-19.
“The bottom line is, I think they just want to be able to finish what is started and then allow things to cool down while everybody is going through Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s,” Dolan said. “They’ll be lots of parties and social gatherings, so they want to get behind all that.”
During his Friday morning COVID-19 press briefing, Justice announced the postponement, but didn’t specify if that date was when games may begin being played or practices may start.
Justice said rapidly increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases were the cause of the postponement. Justice said he will inquire about reducing the preseason practice requirement from 14 days to seven.
“We have tried with all in us to be able to support our athletic teams,” said Justice, who coaches Greenbrier East High School’s girls basketball team. “We know it’s important.”
Justice said fall sports will continue their seasons to conclusion unless something drastic changes.
The girls and boys basketball state tournaments were canceled last winter. The girls event was halted nine games into the 21-game tournament.