IHSAA pulls the plug on spring sports hopes

by JOSH MCDONALD
Staff Reporter | April 18, 2020 11:52 AM

BOISE –– Spring sports 2020, or more aptly, the season that never was

On Friday morning the Idaho High School Activities Association (IHSAA) made the decision to officially cancel all spring sports for Idaho’s high schools.

The official ruling was made following a unanimous vote from the IHSAA board of directors, who took into consideration the events of the past few days, which included Idaho Gov. Brad Little extending the state-wide stay-home order through April 30, as well as recent discussions among school officials revolving around the idea of participating in abbreviated seasons.

And while the vote was unanimous, it was definitely not done without a heavy heart.

“It was a very reluctant unanimous vote,” IHSAA executive director Ty Jones told The Coeur d’Alene Press. “But when you look at everything that was involved with it, you knew it had to be done. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t probably a couple of tears shed by some people (on the board), when you have to tell kids that they don’t get to participate in things. That’s what we did — we told thousands of kids today that your spring sports seasons are done. Our board did not take that lightly; they were aware that was a very tough decision.”

At the local level, the cancellation means that some of the Silver Valley’s most successful programs will be put on ice before they even had gotten off the ground.

Wallace Jr./Sr. High School athletic director Bruce Bailey didn’t speak solely on behalf of just his athletes in Wallace, but for all of the athletes in the SIlver Valley.

And while he is lamenting a season lost, he is hopeful for life to get back to normal by the time fall sports roll around.

“We are sad for all of our athletes, especially our seniors who were looking forward to a final athletic season, and are hopeful we will be returning to fall sports as normal,” Bailey said. “This will have an impact on our community, school and athletes.”

In Mullan, where they had just recently announced the revival of their track team, athletic director Stetson Spooner is upset, not only for the lost track season but for all of his athletes, including a few freshmen who were planning to compete in multiple sports.

“We are really bummed here in Mullan,” Spooner said. “The real let down for me is to watch Talowa Fallingwater and Riley Trogden not get to progress in track and field like they were poised to do. Talowa seems to grow athletically every day and to not get to go try to place in the top three at girls discus this year at state after finishing in the top five as a sophomore is a big bummer. Riley Trogden, who barely missed a trip to state last year after winning the NSL (North Star League) in the 100 meters and 200 meters, was really motivated to make it down there and compete at high levels. Absolute bummer. It's a weird and uncertain set of circumstances that have landed on all of us.”

Arguably, no program has dominated the Silver Valley spring sports landscape more than Kellogg’s Golf Program, which looked to be in the hunt for their third boys state championship in four years.

Boasting two seniors who had been a part of the program during those two previous title runs, as well as returning the entirety of their team from last year’s third place finish, the Wildcats were among the preseason favorites to bring home the big white banner.

In a Friday-morning social media post, Kellogg head golf coach Simon Miller expressed his devastation surrounding the IHSAA’s decision.

“Brutal. I don't have the words to describe my sadness and disappointment. My heart breaks for all the golfers, our coaches, and the KHS Wildcat Golf community, but especially the seniors, Taylor ‘T-Bone’ Bush and Graden ‘Squeaks’ Nearing, and Judson Hall. I don't know what to say except I wish I could fix it. In addition to missing all the camaraderie and family elements our golf season brings, I truly believe we were in the hunt for another state title.”

Idaho’s State Board of Education did leave the door open for schools to reopen on Thursday, following their release of approved school re-entry criteria, but there have also been several schools outside of North Idaho who said that their doors were closed for the year.

Jones also told The Press that the IHSAA had sent out a survey to schools a few ago that asked them if they still wanted state tournaments, how far into the summer would they want to push a state tournament, and what’s the latest students could return to school and still be able to play games.

According to the responses he received, 75-80% said that they would need schools to resume classes by May 4 to even consider sending teams to a state tournament, and 100% of schools said that if school hadn’t resumed by May 11 that it would be a firm no-go.

“We looked at all those things, which is why we were holding off for as long as we did,” Jones said. “There were people out there saying just call it already. That would be the easy thing to do, but we want to exhaust every possible opportunity that we have — you’re looking at thousands of kids that this impacts. That’s why we held off.”

What this decision really did was provide closure for schools, coaches and athletes, who have been waiting since mid-March to find out what the fate of their season would be.

While the decision wasn’t the one they wanted, it does remove one potential thing for them to stress about.

After reading Miller’s post, The News-Press asked him for further comment and he used the opportunity to express his own personal shock and lend his coaching expertise beyond the links and directly toward the student-athletes who are struggling right now.

“It was surreal to give the ‘what a season and we love you seniors’ speech in April,” Miller said. “The good thing is, as coaches we preach that there is more to life. I don’t know what to say – other than sometimes we get examples of things in life that are bigger than we are.”