UI open to conducting high school events this year

The Kibbie Dome at the University of Idaho sits empty Aug. 7 in Moscow after the Big Sky Conference announced it is postponing its fall 2020 football season to spring, but is open to hosting high school events.

Tucked underneath a news release Aug. 7 with the Big Sky postponing the conference’s football season, Idaho State University inserted a sentence that could have ramifications throughout the state when it comes to high school football, if conditions continue as they are and things move forward with a fall season despite the coronavirus pandemic.

“Given this recent development and taking into consideration Idaho State’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, Holt Arena will also not be a host site for high school football games,” the statement said.

That message sent shock waves throughout the state, as it made football planners scramble to firm up plans for Idaho High School Activities Association state championships for November.

Most decisions about where playoff games are conducted typically take place after each round, so if a team from this area has to play a team from the Boise area, normally it would take place at the closest spot to the highest-seeded team.

Take the example of 2019 when Prairie won the Class 1A Division I eight-man title. Because of its proximity and the fact the Pirates were one of the higher-seeded teams, they played all of their postseason games at the Kibble Dome, which is 88.5 miles from the school.

So once it became known Idaho State’s main facility was out for this year’s tournament, many in the southeastern corner of the state naturally wondered where their teams would play postseason games if a season took place.

A spokeswoman at Idaho told the Tribune early this week that the school is open to having high schools conduct events at all of its venues, as long as they are following federal, state, local and university protocols dealing with COVID-19.

While it is not under the athletic department’s oversight, Idaho athletic director Terry Gawlik affirmed the spokeswoman’s statement Thursday during a Zoom call to address the Big Sky postponing all fall sports to the spring

“I would assume as long as they have protocols in place we would certainly be willing to let teams to come in there and use it,” Gawlik said.

Boise State told the Idaho Press in Nampa it has made no firm decision yet on the use of Albertsons Stadium for high school football games or any of its facilities.

And during an interview Aug. 7 on Boise’s KTIK-FM (93.1 The Fan), IHSAA executive director Ty Jones said football and all other sports currently are on track to begin competition as soon as next Thursday, when cross country and soccer can begin competition. But he warned a threshhold of about one-third to one-half of the state’s schools not competing in a certain sport would bring cause and a reassessment to the situation.

“I think we need to see our numbers statewide be at a level where people would be comfortable with sending kids to school,” Jones said. “We have to rely on the data that health districts give us. So if you expect normal this year, it ain’t gonna happen.

“The No. 1 goal is we want to get kids playing again. Having a state tournament is our plan. Our hope is to have teams play at least two-thirds of a season, or about six games. Once you get to around there, that’s about as full of a season as we could expect.”

Donn Walden may be reached at (208) 848-2258, dwalden@lmtribune.com, or on Twitter @waldo9939.

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