News broke Friday afternoon that the Badger Conference would not hold a league season this winter due to COVID-19 issues, which means conference champions and all-conference honors will not be honored at the end of the season.
In a press release sent out by Badger Conference commissioner and Monona Grove Athletic Director Jeff Schreiner stated, “Since all member schools are not able to participate fully in conference contests during the upcoming winter season dates as scheduled, sanctioned Badger Conference competitions will not be held and conference champions will not be named. All schools will be supported in their local decisions and may have the option to schedule non-conference competitions in winter sports, so long as they follow the guidance of the WIAA and local public health officials.”
The press release stated the Badger Conference has “always viewed sports as an important component to the educational process. Participation in sports provides opportunities for developing and cultivating a variety of skills, such as communication, teamwork, discipline, leadership skills and respect for others.
“The Badger Conference supports the fact that education-based athletics is a privilege, not a right, which requires an added level of responsibility for those who administer them and serve as a partner in the education of student-athletes.”
Portage Athletic Director Ed Carlson understood the reason behind not having a conference season.
“With 16 schools involved over so many different counties, and many different scenarios in regards to their educational model and health guidelines, as a conference this was really the only decision that made sense,” he said in an email sent to Capital Newspapers. “It gives individual school districts a chance to evaluate their own situation and make a decision that is in the best interest of their local community.”
Carlson stated in the email Portage plans to move forward with the winter season “with increased safety protocols and advisement from the 2020 WIAA Return to Winter Sports Considerations.”
“We will continue to work in conjunction with our school nurse, board of education, local health departments, Divine Savior Athletic Training, and the WIAA 2020 Return to Winter Sports Considerations to implement a plan for co-curricular activities that mitigates the risks associated with COVID-19 as much as possible,” Carlson stated. “We certainly understand that people are going to have concerns, but we can assure the community that we will work to provide the safest possible environment for co-curricular activities. Ultimately, the decision to participate in co-curricular activities will be a family decision.”
Portage offers boys and girls basketball, boys hockey and wrestling during the winter, as well as boys and girls curling. Girls basketball, and boys and girls hockey at slated to start Nov. 16. Girls basketball will end the week of Feb. 22 while boys. Boys basketball and wrestling will start Nov. 23, and while boys basketball will end the week of March 1, wrestling will end the week of Feb. 15, along with boys hockey.
Carlson said the schedules will “definitely look different.”
“We formed some great partnerships with area schools this fall, and we will look to build our schedules in a similar way,” he said. “Additionally, there are many logistics and modifications to consider with the various sports we offer.”
Carlson said spectator guidelines will be similar to how they were during the fall season. For football games, fans could not enter prior to 6:30 p.m. and a picture I.D. was required for entry.
There will not be tickets sold to any co-curricular sporting events in the winter. However, if fans will be allowed in the venue, student-athletes “will receive a limited amount of free passes for their family.” Masks have been mandatory and social distancing recommended during indoor sports this fall.
“With all Winter sports occurring indoors, there are many additional challenges and regulations,” Carlson stated. “We will work together with our competing schools to come up with guidelines that are as consistent as possible. With various schools under different stipulations, there will likely be a few things different at each venue, including whether or not fans will be allowed to attend events.
“We will work with coaches and our PR department to provide information and live streaming links for the families of our student-athletes and our Warrior Nation community.”
Follow Mark McMullen on Twitter @mmcmull2 or contact him at 920-356-6754.