Four days after the Bears started fall football practice, Moscow High School pulled the plug on traditional fall sports, becoming the first Idaho high school to officially nix the season because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Moscow high and middle schools will instead pursue an intramural format with no travel, said Greg Bailey, Moscow School District superintendent.
“It was just a situation where we were concerned about travel, and where we don’t have control of other communities as well as we don’t have control when they come into our community,” Bailey said in a phone call with the Moscow-Pullman Daily News. “We just felt this was the best direction to make at this time.”
Bailey said Moscow has been doing well in keeping the community protected through a mask order issued by Mayor Bill Lambert. The risk of potentially spreading the virus via moisture contact in sports like football, where masks are unable to be worn, was deemed too high.
The decision came after talks with administrators, coaches, the school board and an extracurricular activities committee designated to help with COVID-19 planning.
“It’s one of those situations where you sit there and you hate making the decision,” Bailey said. “We like our kids to be participating in activities and competition against other communities, but we also don’t want our students to catch the virus and spread the virus.”
Bailey said similar moves at the collegiate level impacted the decision. The University of Idaho and Washington State each will skip sports through the end of the calendar year, after decisions to postpone the fall season by the Big Sky Conference on Thursday and the Pac-12 on Tuesday. Pullman High School already postponed its fall season in July in a decision made at the District 8 level.
Bailey didn’t rule out potentially returning to regular competition this fall — however that might look — if coronavirus numbers improve. The situation remains fluid.
“If we see really strong reductions, we could possibly bring it back to competitive (levels) to see if teams would play us,” he said. “It may not happen. And then for winter sports, we will look at that as well.”
Bailey said the district chose the intramural format to keep kids active and developing. Instead of playing other teams, they’ll be competing among themselves.
Bailey said athletes who wish to participate will be refunded a portion of their athletics fees. Coaches will be retained to help with the activities.
“We’ll talk with the coaches and see what we can set up,” Bailey said. “We’re trying to make it something that would be fun for the kids and improve their skills … because we understand that they want to be out there with their friends.”
Stephan Wiebe can be reached at email@example.com, (208) 883-4624 and on Twitter @StephanSports.