Thursday, August 6, 2020

High School Sports Are Coming Back Next Month

Posted By on Thu, Aug 6, 2020 at 4:16 PM

Ironwood Ridge senior running back Brandon Barrios runs downfield against Marana High School last October. - CHRIS HOOK
  • Chris Hook
  • Ironwood Ridge senior running back Brandon Barrios runs downfield against Marana High School last October.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association’s executive board approved the fall 2020 interscholastic athletics calendar during a special meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 5.

The AIA board voted for a staggered athletics season based on the information received from AIA member schools through a July online survey. Factors like student and personnel safety protocols that can be easily administered by athletic directors and coaches across the state helped board members reach a decision.

"The health and safety of our student participants, coaches, officials and essential personnel, including volunteers, is the primary concern for the return of interscholastic athletics and activities," AIA Executive Director David Hines said. "We are very grateful to those who share our commitment of a return to these highly beneficial educational activities and athletics."

Fall sports will continue to proceed under the out-of-season/summer rules as a part of AIA’s Bylaws and Policies until the first day of practice. The fall 2020 interscholastic athletics calendar will be shorted to accommodate for winter sports at the end of the year. All fall sports will still have an opportunity for a championship tournament.

The AIA Executive Board is made up representatives of member schools, each with concerns of how to proceed forward with interscholastic sports during the pandemic. While members brought up numerous concerns about the difficulty of creating a streamlined approach for schools statewide, they ultimately agreed upon the schedule below:

First Practice – Sept. 7
First Competition – Sept. 30-Oct. 3
Championships – Dec. 11/12 (4A-6A & Open)

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Thursday, July 30, 2020

Danehy: Push Back the Start of High School Sports

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2020 at 10:51 AM

An Open Letter To Governor Doug Ducey and David Hines, Head of the Arizona Interscholastic Association:

There are few things more important to a high-school athlete that his/her senior season. It is the culmination of years of preparation and it generates memories that last a lifetime. But now, due to a coronavirus pandemic that hasn’t been properly addressed throughout this country, untold numbers of Arizona’s high-school athletes are in real danger of suffering the same fate as the Spring athletes in the Class of 2020—the cancellation of sports and a gaping hole in their high-school experience.

There were ideas floated about flip-flopping Fall sports (football, volleyball, and others) with Spring sports (softball, baseball, track & field), with the thinking being that the latter are almost completely non-contact and would be safer while the pandemic was still active (or raging, as the case may be). This didn’t sit well with baseball coaches, whose players already lost last season and stood a good chance of losing the 2020-21 season, as well, should there be another flare-up. Some football coaches have signed a petition, asking that their seasons be moved.

There’s a better solution: Just move everything back.

Spend the next couple months starting the educational process, with the focus on getting kids back into school when it is safe to do so (for both students and teachers). Assume that science will come to the rescue with a vaccine late in this calendar year (and that there are enough people who aren’t crazy anti-vaxxers); it should be safe to start preparing for sports sometime after Thanksgiving.

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Friday, July 24, 2020

Coronavirus sports roundup: Mercury honor Breonna Taylor; fake fans to highlight games at Chase Field

Posted By on Fri, Jul 24, 2020 at 4:30 PM

  • Courtesy Phoenix Mercury
PHOENIX – The WNBA and NBA have allowed players to choose a variety of social justice messages they would like on the back of their jerseys once regular season basketball resumes.

Play Ball! Diamondbacks Start Season Tucson Tonight, FC Tucson Is Back on Soccer Field Sunday The Phoenix Mercury will be honoring the life of Breonna Taylor by showcasing her name on the back of every player’s uniform when their season begins Saturday against the L.A. Sparks in Bradenton, Fla., the team announced.

And the Suns’ Deandre Ayton told the media on a Zoom webinar call on Thursday that he plans to have the messaging “respect us” on the back of his jersey.

Taylor was a 26-year-old Black woman who was fatally shot by police when Louisville officers came into her apartment abruptly on March 13 while using a no-knock warrant to search for drugs during a narcotics investigation. No drugs were found in Taylor’s apartment and the warrant was made in connection with a suspect who did not share the apartment with Taylor in any way.

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Play Ball! Diamondbacks Start Season Tucson Tonight, FC Tucson Is Back on Soccer Field Sunday

Posted By on Fri, Jul 24, 2020 at 1:00 PM

Professional spring sports are back after COVID-19 delayed or canceled numerous leagues' seasons.

Major League Baseball and professional soccer are trying to salvage what’s left of their seasons with a shortened number of league games, coronavirus checks before matchups and playing in empty arenas.

The Arizona Diamondbacks kick off their season opener against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park in San Diego this evening, beginning a three-game series this weekend. The matchup will be broadcast on FOX Sports Arizona at 6:10 p.m. MST.

Experts predict the victor of this weekend’s series will be poised to take second place in the NL West division, behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, who in the top spot. The D-Backs faced the Dodgers earlier this week in this season’s brief two-game spring training but were blown out by a score of 9-2 on Sunday, July 19, and 12-1 on Monday, July 20.

Major League Baseball shorted their typical 162-game season down to a mere 60 games in addition to hosting games in crowd-less stadiums. The league is also testing players for the virus before the start of games. Before Thursday’s season opener between the Washinton Nationals and New York Yankees, Nationals star Juan Soto tested positive for COVID-19 and will be out of the season until he recuperates.

While the D-Backs battle the Padres, professional soccer club FC Tucson is on their way to Florida to face Inter Miami II for their season opener on Saturday, July 25 at 4:00 p.m. Just like MLB they too won’t be having attendees at their matches. However, that isn’t the case for all the clubs within the league—USL League One, according to FC Tucson President Amanda Powers.

“You’ll find that some of the USL marketed teams we’ll be playing against will actually have fans in the stadiums. Games in Tucson will not,” Powers said. “While we won’t be having fans at Kino Sports Complex, we will be streaming all our games on ESPN Plus and also hosting a drive-in watch party at El Toro Flicks Carpool Cinema.”

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Coronavirus sports roundup: Cuomo’s ‘no fans’ announcement eye-opening for Arizona collegiate programs

Posted By on Wed, Jul 22, 2020 at 3:00 PM

  • Bigstock
PHOENIX – Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement Tuesday that fans will not be allowed to attend college sporting events in the state of New York during the fall shed light on an interesting discrepancy between New York and Arizona.

One has a lot of colleges. The other does not.

New York has 102 schools that sport Division I, II or III programs. Arizona? Try four: Arizona, Arizona State, Northern Arizona and Grand Canyon.

The abundance of schools in New York made Cuomo’s decision a significant story.

“Fanless, the game can go on, the game can be televised, but no fans,” Cuomo said during a conference call with reporters.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Coronavirus sports roundup: Diamondbacks experience baseball with cardboard cutouts, fake crowd noise

Posted By on Tue, Jul 21, 2020 at 3:00 PM

PHOENIX – The Arizona Diamondbacks caught their first glimpse of pandemic baseball.

Cardboard cutouts and piped in fan noise were among the oddities as the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Diamondbacks 9-2 in an exhibition game Sunday at Dodger Stadium. It was the first time Diamondbacks fans saw the team in game action since March 10 when spring training and baseball were put on pause due to COVID-19.

Team travel was one of the first challenges the team faced during pandemic baseball. Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said the plane ride from Phoenix to L.A. was very quiet. Players kept to themselves and their own space on the plane.

Typically, the team would fly into the airport then go to the hotel before heading to the stadium. On this trip, the team went straight from airport to stadium. Lovullo said that abnormality may have taken the team out of its comfort zone.

The team took four buses instead of the usual two. This ensured everyone was evenly spaced apart and nobody was sitting directly in front of, behind or next to another person.

Dodger Stadium did not have fans in attendance. Instead, hundreds of cardboard cutouts were scattered throughout and advertising banners stretched across rows of seats to take up several sections.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2020

AZ leaders applaud NFL Washington team name change

Posted By on Tue, Jul 14, 2020 at 3:30 PM

PHOENIX – Washington’s NFL team on Monday officially dropped its name, a derogatory term for Native Americans that the team has held since 1933.

Native leaders and supporters in Arizona hailed a change activists have been working toward for years. The reactions ranged from relief to reflection.

Reflecting on a victory years in the making

Amanda Blackhorse
An activist and member of the Navajo Nation, Blackhorse was a plaintiff in the lawsuit Blackhorse v. Pro Football Inc. (2014)

“Today is truly a monumental day in our fight to eliminate racist ‘Native’ mascots and names in professional sports. Farewell to the Washington team’s racist r-word name and logo!” she said in a news release. “As much as I want to fully celebrate this day, I am concerned with the Washington team’s lack of clarity around their rebrand. In their statement, they did not commit to rebranding without any ‘Native’ names, themes, or imagery. Given the history of the Washington franchise and recent public statement from Coach Ron Rivera, they’ve mentioned favoring new branding that honors Native people and the military. In order for the Washington team to truly stand for racial equality, a 100% rebrand of the Washington franchise with NO Native themes/imagery/names is required.”

A chance to get it right

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez
“For us, here in the Navajo Nation, we are grateful; we appreciate that the name will not be used anymore. But we have been advocating for that for some time, and Amanda (Blackhorse) has been at the forefront of this and I appreciate her strength and her resilience even though she is dealing with others out there, maybe non-Natives that are pushing back on this. If this name has been utilized for many decades to put down Native Americans, here is a chance for the NFL and the team to get it right.”

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Monday, July 13, 2020

Coronavirus sports roundup: Pac-12 opts for conference-only games, ASU won’t release test results

Posted By on Mon, Jul 13, 2020 at 11:30 AM

PHOENIX – Following the lead of the Big Ten and others, the Pac-12 Conference announced its football teams will play only conference games in 2020.

“Arizona State University and Sun Devil Athletics support the Pac-12’s announcement of a strictly conference schedule for the 2020 football and fall sports season,” said Ray Anderson, ASU’s vice president for university athletics.

The news came after executive members of the Pac-12 met Friday to discuss their options. The sports affected also include men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball. The conference also said it is delaying the start of mandatory athletic activities until health and safety indicators, “which have recently trended in a negative direction, provided sufficient positive data to enable a move to a second phase of return-to-play activities.”

“The health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports continues to be our number one priority,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said.

The Pac-12 is not alone in its thought to rethink the season. ACC commissioner John Swofford announced the conference would make a decision at the end of July, while Sports Illustrated reports that the SEC is gathering all 14 of its athletic directors on Monday for an in-person meeting to discuss the season.

The news is a result of the coronavirus pandemic as cases increase in many states.

Sixty-nine FBS schools nationwide have released or reported data on coronavirus testing of its athletes, the Buffalo News reported. Arizona State is not one of them. An athletic department spokesman said the reason is a university-wide policy to not disclose information.

Five other conference schools said they will not report data: Oregon, Utah, Stanford, UCLA and Washington State.

“As you know, we work in close coordination with ADHS and the Maricopa County Department of Public Health and will continue deferring to those public health agencies regarding disclosure of positive test results and related information,” the university said in a statement “Public health officials will advise ASU if additional disclosure measures are necessary. University leaders, in consultation with public health officials, will determine the right protocols for intramural sports and fitness programs.”

On June 29th, Arizona decided to halt its athletes’ return to campus. At that time, there had been just one positive test among the 83 athletes that returned for voluntary workouts, the school said in a statement.

If the Pac-12 does decide to cut non-conference games, Arizona State would lose games against Northern Arizona, UNLV and Brigham Young. Arizona would lose games against Hawaii, Portland State and Texas Tech.

Other notable Pac-12 non-conference games that have already been canceled due to the Big Ten’s announcement are Michigan visiting Washington in Week 1 and Ohio State visiting Oregon in Week 2. If the Pac-12 follows suit, the yearly matchup between USC and Notre Dame would also not be played.

Across the country, there has been a wave of universities deciding to cut numerous sports programs in order to save money due to the coronavirus pandemic. That wave hit Stanford on Wednesday as it decided to drop 11 programs including wrestling and men’s volleyball. The move will save the school $70 million, reports The New York Times.

On Thursday, Anderson said he would do his best to ensure that wave would not reach ASU.

“We recognize many of our Pac-12 colleagues and other institutions across the country have made difficult decisions to cut sports and support staff in recent weeks,” he said. “We remain steadfast in our intent and commitment to avoid such drastic measures through every means possible. We are entering a critical period of time which will inform us of many pieces to the larger puzzle of our fall seasons. Until we have more clarity on those timelines and the parameters in which we’ll need to adhere to, we will continue to prepare for all scenarios to ensure the safest environment possible for the entire ASU community.”

Bidwill hospitalized for coronavirus
Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill has been hospitalized for the coronavirus, the team announced Friday,

It is believed Bidwill, 55, contracted the virus after traveling on the East Coast.

“His symptoms have subsided and Bidwill is expected to be released sometime this weekend,” the team said in a statement.

List of MLB players opting out increases
The list of players opting out of the 2020 MLB season added another name as San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey has decided to not play.

The decision comes after Posey and his wife adopted prematurely-born identical twins on Thursday.

Posey joins Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher David Price, Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Mike Leake, among others.

Newest MLB coronavirus test results
After some back and forth and numerous holdups, Major League Baseball has released the numbers it has received highlighting the first round of coronavirus testing it has done across players and employees.

The league has just 66 positive results from the 3,748 total samples tested, making a 1.8% total percent positive. For context, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported the most recent total percent positive in Arizona to be 11.7%.

Of the 66 positive cases, 58 were from players, and the remaining eight were staff members.

Reduced capacity for Cardinals games
The Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority said it expects to see significantly reduced seating capacity when the NFL season begins in September.

The organization projects 17.5% attendance at football games in the fiscal year that began July 1, the Arizona Republic reported. The overall budget was reduced about 36.6% year over year.

“The authority and its stadium partners feel confident that some level of event activity will return to the stadium, slowly being phased in as new guidelines are put into place,” the organization said in its budget.

Planned upgrades to the stadium facilities are on hold for six months.

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