Just four days later, winter sports in Arizona are back on. The Arizona Interscholastic Association's Executive Board voted 5-4 Tuesday to reinstate winter sports as of Jan. 18.
On Friday, due to soaring COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Arizona's high school sports governing body voted by the same 5-4 margin to cancel basketball, soccer and wrestling.
That vote was met with backlash from parents, coaches and players throughout the state, including a small protest from players outside the AIA office, and a petition signed by more than 30,000 to re-vote was honored.
The reinstatement comes with provisions, including mandatory masks for all participants and no general fans will be allowed at events (parents of players will be allowed to attend). The latter provision may be reconsidered, AIA Executive Director David Hines said.
Tuesday's vote overturns a decision that would have canceled an entire season for the first time in the 100-plus-year history of the organization.
According to Richard Obert of the Arizona Republic
, a gathering of athletes chanted "AIA, let us play!" outside the AIA office while Tuesday's vote occurred. Hines emphasized that all protocols are mandatory and will be enforced strictly.
On Friday, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported the death count for the state is nearly 10,000 (9,938) since the pandemic first hit in early 2020. Friday's report of new cases alone were at more than 11,600 and more than 200 deaths, making Arizona one of the hottest COVID-19 spots in the country.
In a release from the AIA
on Friday, the committee took those numbers into strong consideration as well as data supplied from the organization's Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC), which included that 93 percent of the state's intensive care unit beds and 92 percent inpatient beds were in use.
"Unfortunately, it is expected that the state will see a continued rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations for some time," SMAC committee chairman Dr. Kristina Wilson said Friday. "As medical professionals, we can not in good conscience recommend that students engage in a winter season under the current conditions."
Arizona is one of 31 states that completed football seasons in the fall and one of 26 that played for a state championship. Two more states — Texas and Michigan — are scheduled to finish fall football this month, leaving 17 to complete fall sports some time in 2021.
As of last week, 30 states had started basketball seasons with five more states set to tip off within the next 10 days. Delays and ongoing changes have been common as 21 states and the District of Columbia pushed back start basketball dates to Jan. 4 or later.