LINCOLN — As of now, spring sports in Nebraska high schools still have a hope of starting and having state championships.
The window is closing, however.
On Monday, the Nebraska School Activities Association ordered a statewide suspension of practice until March 30 and competitions through April 2 because of the coronavirus threat. Schools and students must observe out-of-school practice and competition restrictions for the sports.
Jay Bellar, the NSAA’s executive director, said the NSAA board last week gave his staff the latitude to make such decisions.
“What we did today gives us some time,” he said. “If we can go on, how will these (spring) championships look? I’ve been working with the 250 number for public gatherings and now understand the CDC has recommended that number go to 50.
“It’s getting tougher and tougher to come to terms with what we have to do.”
Bellar said he’s included on a weekly conference call for updated information on Sundays with state Department of Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt, Gov. Pete Ricketts and others who include Lancaster County interim health director Pat Lopez. This week’s call led to Monday’s NSAA actions.
What happens if the number of untraceable community-spread cases of the virus causes longer-term school closures statewide or in a specific educational service area? Bellar said such a mandate could mean no state championships the rest of the school year.
“We want to have those state championships if we can,” he said.
Not all spring sports are alike for social distancing. Bellar said it’s possible holding spring sports championships could be determined individually.
“I look at track. It’s such a big spectator sport and there’s so many participants, especially at state,” he said. “First, Burke would have to say it’s OK to come in and use their facilities. So what could track look like?”
Golf and tennis are individual sports with few social distancing issues. Bellar said the NSAA would want to hear more guidance from its health partners.
“I think we look individually at the championships,” he said, “but we must be smart enough for when do we make determinations and what information we use.”
It’s a week I’ll never forget. Having covered close to 20 years of Nebraska high school tournaments, it was apparent this would be a tourney like no other.