The pandemic will force basketball and wrestling seasons to be delayed until mid-January, according to the latest Kansas State High School Activities Association proposal.

As cases of COVID-19 surge throughout Kansas, the KSHSAA Executive Board approved a proposal delaying the start of winter sports competitions until Jan. 15 on Wednesday.

The proposal now has to be voted on by the KSHSAA Board of Directors, which has representatives from every league in the state. That vote will take place during a special meeting on Tuesday at 1 p.m.

Mike Kastle, a member of the KSHSAA Executive Board as well as the USD 503 Parsons board, said Wednesday’s vote was essentially to give the larger BOD a voice.

“My reason was to give the 78-member board the opportunity to make that decision,” Kastle said. “I’m a proponent of playing while we can. But I understand the science. I want a bigger group to make this decision. It’s smart to move it on to them.” 

Other details that will be voted on in the proposal include limiting the basketball season to 13 games, the wrestling season to 12 events, extending the winter break moratorium to New Year’s Day and allowing practice to continue until Dec. 22. Each of those aspects could be voted on separately or as a package.

“We’re going to be squeezing games in,” Kastle said. “We’re going to try to get over a dozen games in during a month and a half.” 

The proposal from KSHSAA would also bar fans from Jan. 15-28 and only allow limited fans the rest of the season. 

Kastle, who will be a voting member of the BOD on Tuesday, said he’s unsure which way he’ll vote. 

“In our school, we’ve had no transmission,” Kastle said. “If we follow the procedures, I think we can get through it. It might be smart to play the games with no fans. I’m on the fence about which way I’ll vote on Tuesday. I want to represent everybody that I can.”

Labette County High School Principal Shane Holtzman, who represents the SEK League on the board of directors, thinks winter sports might be able to proceed on schedule with limited to no fans.

“I understand where they’re coming from,” Holtzman said. “But why can’t we just have competitions without fans? That was something I had thought about.” 

Holtzman said he’ll contact every SEK League school as well as others in the coming days to get a better sense of where the region stands on KSHSAA’s proposal to delay the season.

“My plan is to contact all the league schools and figure out what they’re thinking and feeling,” Holtzman said. “Maybe I’ll reach out to some other leagues too and figure out where they’re at. I can’t anticipate how they’ll vote. I don’t know how we’ll vote at this point.” 

Practice for winter sports started on Monday and the season is less than three weeks away from starting on the original timeline.

“As it’s been throughout this whole pandemic,” Holtzman said. “Things change fast based on the numbers. Hospitalizations are up, Kansas numbers of cases are up. The nature of this pandemic shows how quickly things change.” 

Kastle predicts that the proposal to delay winter sports in Kansas will pass, but that the vote will be narrow.

“If my gut is right, this will pass on a slim majority,” Kastle said. “What we’re seeing as far as cases rising is going to be a major factor. There will be people that want to back off and see what happens.” 

KSHSAA’s move to potentially postpone winter sports comes on the same day that Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly issued a new executive order on face masks. Kansas also reported over 5,800 new cases of COVID-19 and 63 deaths since Monday.

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