As expected, the Nebraska School Activities Association’s (NSAA) Board of Directors gave unanimous approval to start fall sports as scheduled at its special Zoom meeting Monday.
The board left flexibility if some districts wish to delay sports and activities because of safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Preseason practices will begin next Monday in football, volleyball, softball, boys and girls cross country, girls golf and boys tennis. Eight football teams with Week 0 games Aug. 21 can start practice either Wednesday or Thursday. Lincoln North Star, which hosts Hastings on Aug. 21 at Seacrest Field, will begin football workouts Wednesday.
For those without a Week 0 game, the first football games are scheduled for Aug. 27 and 28.
Board member Thomas Lee, principal at Omaha Northwest, said there are some Class A and B school districts in the Omaha metro area that have recommended an Aug. 31 start to sports because of rising COVID-19 cases in Douglas County.
Omaha Public Schools has not yet committed to beginning its fall sports and activities Aug. 10. That decision is expected in the coming days.
In the football resolution passed by the board, teams will not be penalized for starting late nor having games called off because of an outbreak. If a game isn’t played because of COVID-19 as determined by a local health department and the schools involved, it is counted as a no contest in terms of wild-card points instead of a forfeit.
Schools will be given the option to pick up regular-season games to replace the ones canceled, but those contests will not be factored into the wild-card points.
Nate Neuhaus, the NSAA assistant director in charge of football, said changes can be made to the postseason to account for schools starting late, which could mean allowing everyone to make the playoffs. That would add a round to each of the brackets in A and B.
“I think we can let the season evolve, see how many games we can get in,” Neuhaus said. “We can lengthen the playoffs, condense the playoffs and then maybe offer opportunities for the schools that start late to maybe get a game or two in during the playoff period of time, but they’re not playoff games.”
The board approved the start to each fall sport in individual proposals. It also decided not to take action on adjusting transfer rules in case a school district elects not to offer fall sports this year.
NSAA executive director Jay Bellar said he’s received calls from California parents seeking information on Nebraska’s transfer rules. With California high school sports shut down until Jan. 1, parents were looking to send their children to live with family in Nebraska and compete in sports here.
If OPS doesn’t offer sports this fall, there could be an exodus of athletes from those schools into surrounding districts with the hopes of playing.
NSAA legal counsel Rex Schultze’s recommendation was to leave the current transfer rules as they are written and not venture into making exceptions to them. Unless a family makes a domicile change into the new school district, NSAA rules state that a student must sit out 90 school days at their new school before becoming eligible for varsity athletics.
“We have a rational basis for our rule,” Schultze said. “Until a court tells us that our transfer rule is somehow unconstitutional, I would strongly encourage us to stay (the course).”
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