The hammer finally fell Tuesday on the long-delayed winter and spring sports for West Virginia high schools.
About two hours after Gov. Jim Justice announced that schools around the state would not open again to conclude this school year, the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission issued a statement calling off its boys and girls postseason basketball games and all of its spring sports, including baseball, softball, track and tennis.
High school sports in West Virginia were halted on March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
SSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan announced the cancellation of all pending athletic events in a statement.
“The WVSSAC agrees and supports the decision of the Governor and Superintendent [of Schools Clay] Burch,’’ Dolan said in the statement. “For the safety of our students, schools and communities, this was the right decision.
“This is an extremely difficult time for our students, coaches, schools and communities. West Virginians are a resilient group who will overcome this virus and all problems that come with it.’’
Nine of 21 games were played in the girls state basketball tournament, and all 21 games of the boys tournament had been on hold, along with eight Class AA regional games that were halted on March 12. The basketball tournaments are the SSAC’s biggest moneymaker, with more than $500,000 in revenue during the 2017-18 season, and a profit of nearly $400,000.
Allen Osborne, boys basketball coach at Poca, saw his team’s Region 4 co-final home game against Logan wiped out by Tuesday’s decision. The winner would have advanced to the state tournament.
“It’s been hard on the kids,’’ Osborne said, “because they didn’t know. Any time there’s uncertainty, you don’t know because there’s always that little glimmer of hope. But honestly, I definitely think it was the right decision to make. I don’t think anybody’s angry; I think just disappointed is the right word to use. It’s hard for kids and coaches because we work all year for that time of year and prepare for it, but don’t get to finish it out.
“I feel sorry for our kids, especially the seniors. The hardest thing for me is not being able to look them in the eye and say, ‘Boys, we’re not going to be able to do this.’ I’ve got to call or text them. We thought we had a shot, but those things aren’t important right now. You’re looking at people’s lives and jobs. It’s unbelievable the things that are going on.’’
Three Kanawha Valley boys teams had already qualified for the state tournament — George Washington and St. Albans (Class AAA) and Charleston Catholic (Class A). Winfield was still alive in the AA regionals. For SA, it was supposed to be the first state tournament trip since 2004.
“It wasn’t ever really looking too bright for it to resume,’’ said Red Dragons senior Ethan Clay, “but it still stings. I’ve been running, working out at the house to keep in shape.
“We accomplished a lot, and we can’t take that away from each other. We still left our mark on the season; we just never really got to finish.’’
Clay, the Kanawha Valley’s defensive player of the year, gave his commitment Tuesday to play at Glenville State.
Spring sports, which never got off the ground last month, had the following state tournament dates: tennis (May 14-16), track (May 22-23), softball (May 27-28) and baseball (June 4-6).
The state track meet, which first began in 1914, had only been called off once before — in 1917 due to World War I. The boys state basketball tournament also started in 1914 and had never missed a season until this year.
Dolan said his office will be providing member schools with guidance for the upcoming three-week approved summer practice period, which is scheduled for June 8-27, but can be delayed until after the Fourth of July week if necessary. The latest dates it can begin are July 6 or July 13.
“It’s something that people en masse will have to decide for it to work well,’’ Dolan said of delaying the three-week period. “If you’re going to have games in the summer part of the three-week window, you’d better have somebody else to play.
“I expect people are going to want to be back together, but we’ll have to follow the governor and his medical people as to what the limits are. June 15 is a long way away and a lot of things will happen between now and then.’’
Football practice for state schools is set to begin on Aug. 3 and the season is scheduled to open the weekend of Aug. 27-28. Like football, practices are set to open on Aug. 3 for other fall sports such as cheerleading, cross country, golf and soccer.
One of the earliest events that has yet to be ruled out is the Friday Night Rivals North-South All-Star Football Classic, set for June 13 at South Charleston High School.
Bob Mullett, North-South director, said on Tuesday that his group is “still on line to go,’’ though he did add that he is scheduled to talk next week to SC officials, as well as those at West Virginia State, where the pregame training camp is held.
A source close to the North-South Basketball Classic at the SC Community Center said that June 12 game is also hopeful of being played.