The Wyoming High School Activities Association has built several different schedules to accommodate varying start times for a 2020 football season.
Right now, games are scheduled to begin on Aug. 28. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic sparking postponements and cancellations of events across the country, and with schools themselves trying to figure out how to best accommodate students, an on-time start to the football season is not certain.
The different contingency plans established by the WHSAA, shared with wyoming-football.com by WHSAA Commissioner Ron Laird, depend on when a safe start to the season can take place. For each week lost, the plans change.
Laird said Monday that each sport has its own potential contingencies set up for the fall if the start of the season is delayed or if time is lost during the middle of the season.
“We’re trying to play,” Laird said. “That’s the key. We want kids to be able to participate, and we’re going to do everything we can to make that happen.”
Football’s contingency plans
For football, the ramifications of late starts range widely. On one of the spectrum, a week or weeks of the schedule may be canceled. The later the start to the season, though, the more challenging the changes become, including eliminating playoff rounds, changing the date and location for championship games, and finding new ways to seed teams for playoffs.
The football season would start no later than Oct. 16. Scheduling championship games for the week of Friday, Nov. 20 — which would happen if the season starts any later than Sept. 18 — is also complicated by the University of Wyoming’s home football game scheduled with Boise State on Saturday, Nov. 21. In contingencies where championships are moved to the week of Nov. 20, the higher-seeded team will host the championship game. In Class 3A and 1A six-man, the East Conference champions will be the higher seeds, while in Class 2A and 1A nine-man, West Conference champions will be the higher seeds. However, if the two teams played each other during the regular season, the winner of the game will host the championship.
Class 4A could also move to a North-South conference schedule, with Sheridan, Campbell County, Thunder Basin, Natrona and Kelly Walsh in the North and Cheyenne Central, Cheyenne East, Cheyenne South, Laramie and Rock Springs in the South. However, a move to conference play for playoff seeding is the decision of the 4A schools, not of the WHSAA, and may not come until after the season starts, Laird said.
Playoff qualification; uneven cancellations
More broadly, Laird said, if chunks of the conference schedule are lost, and teams can’t complete the conference schedule, the coaches themselves will meet to decide which teams will qualify for the playoffs.
Laird said the WHSAA members looked at a variety of power-rating or RPI methods to seed teems, including the one Wyoming used in the 2000s. Ultimately, they decided a coach seeding meeting would work best, similar to what coaches do for seeding for regional wrestling meets.
Laird said some arguments may develop — most likely between teams tied for a playoff spot — but said the coaches “would know best the teams in their conferences.”
Laird also said teams may need to prepare for uneven cancellations affecting the schedule; one district, or one county, deciding to suspend school or activities due to an outbreak does not mean other schools would follow suit. Consequently, some teams may play more games than others.
“There’s a good chance we’re not going to have competitive equity this year,” he said.
If such cancellations happen, Laird said any scheduled games would be counted as no-contest games, not as forfeits. Playoff seeding would still remain with coaches.
“We don’t want to penalize the school over something they have no control over,” Laird said.
Rescheduling games in such circumstances could also be a possibility, Laird said.
Also, schools that don’t reach the playoffs in a shortened season can schedule games with other non-playoff teams during playoff weeks.
Other considerations: Midseason changes, UW
While the contingency plans outline what would happen with late starts to the season, Laird said the WHSAA is also looking into steps to take if one week or a group of weeks midseason is lost.
“We’ve tried to ‘what-if’ it as much as we could,” Laird said.
Laird also acknowledged that if the University of Wyoming can’t play its football season as scheduled, “it’s going to be pretty tough for us to play.”
Football is not alone
Other fall sports will also feel ramifications of contingency scheduling, Laird said. For volleyball, cross country, golf and swimming, he said schedules may need to be shifted to avoid large invitational meets, where large numbers of people could mean a higher likelihood of contagion transmission.
Moving fall sports to the spring also remains a possibility, but Laird said “it isn’t as clean as that sounds. … It is basically the last, last resort. It will be a trickle-down if we move that, and then we’ve got to move other things.”
Particularly, Laird said moving fall sports to the spring would affect track and soccer for a second consecutive year, something he said he wants to avoid.
Laird said the WHSAA’s overall goal was to return students to activities “and do it safely for everybody.”
A breakdown of football’s plan
The WHSAA’s full contingency plan for football is here. Here’s a quick breakdown of how the schedule changes with each week pushed back:
- Season starts Week 1 (Sept. 4): Zero Week contests are canceled, no make-up.
- Season starts Week 2 (Sept. 11): Zero Week contests and Week 1 games are canceled, no make-up.
- Season starts Week 3 (Sept. 18):
- For 4A and 3A, Zero Week, Week 1 and Week 2 games are canceled, no make-up.
- For 2A, 1A nine-man and 1A six-man, Week 2 games are moved to the week of quarterfinal playoffs, and no quarterfinal playoff round is played.
- Season starts Week 4 (Sept. 25):
- For 4A and 3A, Week 3 games move to the original week of the quarterfinal playoffs (Oct. 30). Playoff games are all shifted back one week, with championships scheduled for Nov. 20.
- For 2A, 1A nine-man and 1A six-man, Week 2 games are moved to the week of Oct. 30 and Week 3 games to Nov. 6. There would be no quarterfinal playoffs, with semifinals on Nov. 13 and championships Nov. 20.
- Season starts Week 5 (Oct. 2):
- For 4A and 3A, all games are pushed back one week and week 3 games are moved to the original week of semifinals. Quarterfinal playoffs are eliminated, and semifinal games would be played Nov. 13 (the original week of championships) and championships Nov. 20.
- For 2A and 1A nine-man, a six-game regular season, as the schedule would go Week 5-Week 6-Week 7-Week 8-Week 2-Week 3, with Week 4 games eliminated. Again, there would be no quarterfinal playoffs, with semifinals on Nov. 13 and championships Nov. 20.
- For 1A six-man, a six-game regular season, as the schedule would go Week 5-Week 6-Week 7-Week 8-Week 2-Week 4, with Week 3 games eliminated. Again, there would be no quarterfinal playoffs, with semifinals on Nov. 13 and championships Nov. 20.
- Season starts Week 6 (Oct. 9):
- For 4A and 3A, a five-week regular season (with possible rescheduling in 4A), with the schedule going Week 6-Week 7-Week 8-Week 4-Week 5. Semifinals would be Nov. 13 and championships Nov. 20.
- For 2A and 1A nine-man, a six-week regular season with a schedule of Week 6-Week 7-Week 8-Week 2-Week 3-Week 5. No quarterfinal or semifinal playoffs; conference champions would meet in the state championship on Nov. 20.
- For 1A six-man, a six-week regular season with with a schedule of Week 6-Week 7-Week 8-Week 5-Week 2-Week 4. No quarterfinal or semifinal playoffs; conference champions would meet in the state championship on Nov. 20.
- Season starts Week 7 (Oct. 16):
- For 4A and 3A, five-week regular season (with possible rescheduling in 4A), with the schedule going Week 7-Week 8-Week 4-Week 5-Week 6. No quarterfinals or semifinals; conference champions would meet in state championship games Nov. 20.
- For 2A and 1A nine-man, a five-week regular season with the schedule going Week 7-Week 8-Week 2-Week 3-Week 5. Again, no quarterfinals or semifinals, with conference champs playing in the title game Nov. 20.
- For 1A six-man, a five-week regular season with the schedule going Week 7-Week 8-Week 5-Week 6-Week 4. Again, no quarterfinals or semifinals, with conference champs playing in the title game Nov. 20.