BENNETT'S MINUTES (FREE ACCESS): Breaking down high school sports changes in most bizarre time ever

Friday, March 13, 2020 ~ Updated 6:52 PM

Here, as simply as possible, is where high school sports stand in the midst of one of the most bizarre periods in the history of the competition:

Boys’ basketball

The regional tournaments scheduled for Saturday at 16 sites around the state have been postponed indefinitely.

On Friday, IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox issued this brief statement:

“Due to the number of schools closing after today for an extended period of time, it has become apparent the IHSAA boys basketball tournament series cannot be completed as scheduled. Subsequently, the boys basketball tournament is postponed immediately.

Saturday’s girls gymnastics state finals at Worthen Arena in Muncie will continue as scheduled with no spectators in attendance. Competition will begin at 1 pm ET / 12 p.m. CT.”

Before you try to interpret that statement as favoring gymnastics over basketball, which no one would think is possible in any universe, the difference from what I understand is that state champions will be crowned that day and the basketball tourney still has several levels remaining.

In reality, I would be shocked if the basketball tournament is ever played out. Part of that will involve the next section in this column (spring sports).

Sixty-four of the approximately 400 high schools remain alive in basketball, and many of those athletes (particularly at smaller schools) also compete in spring sports.

Spring sports status

The viability of having any kind of a high school spring sports season this year is clearly up in the air, if not doubtful.

With many schools closing and using e-learning instead of traditional classes, practices will be delayed until next month at those schools.

Several spring sports coaches have already posted on social media that their team’s next possible practice is Monday, April 6, with the first game competition approximately on April 17.

Here is a statement sent to IHSAA member schools on Friday concerning spring sports:

“Regular-season contests are conducted at the discretion of our member schools. Currently, the guidance being provided by the state of Indiana allows for events with less than 250 individuals in attendance to be conducted. Local jurisdiction shall prevail with regard to whether contests in the regular season are conducted.

Some schools in our state have closed and will implement extended break periods. Once students return to school, all provisions of Rule 9-14 - Practice Attendance to Participate in a Contest shall be enforced. This health and safety measure within the by-laws will not be waived. Should a previously-scheduled contest fall before the completion of said separate days of practice, the contest must be rescheduled or cancelled.

A decision on meeting a minimum number of contests to become eligible for IHSAA tournament series events will be made at a later day.

At this time, the IHSAA is planning on staging all spring sport tournament series events as scheduled.”

Obviously the IHSAA is in uncharted territory here. How serious, or not, the health concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus will increase or decrease over the next few weeks is impossible to tell at this point.

In my opinion, basketball is done for the school year. Any attempt to resurrect the final three levels of competition would impact a lot of multi-sport athletes for whatever kind of a spring sports season that could still occur.

Could they decide to cancel spring sports and finish basketball over the end of April and start of May? They could. But then you get proms in the way, and that scenario seems far-fetched at best.

To me, it seems there should be a distinction between indoor and outdoor sports in terms of the likelihood of transmitting diseases through the air. While players in any spring sport will touch the same equipment and occasionally each other, I’m sure the potential risks of athletes from the same team in locker rooms is also a consideration.

My prediction is that if things settle down and the steps being taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus prove to be effective, spring sports appear to at least have a chance to take place in some shortened form.