For a tenuous 20 minutes Thursday night, the Delaware high school fall sports season was on thin ice.
The Delaware State Board of Education initially voted 3-2 to reject changes and an extension to their emergency regulation on COVID protocols, which would have expired on October 30, likely meaning an end to the sports season.
Upon realizing what they had voted to do, the state board voted unanimously to reconsider and approve what is known as Emergency Regulation 1010, bringing the season back, but with the guidance for the DIAA to address equity issues including scheduling and gathering limits at games.
Part of 1010 are the amended dates to the Delaware high school sports calendar, with games scheduled to begin Monday.
"Once 1010 stops, there is truly nothing holding those parameters in place for that," said DIAA Executive Director Donna Polk. "It creates other issues. Now, this does become an equity issue."
That equity issue was raised because a major reason for board members voting against 1010 was due to Salesianum's inability to get more than three scheduled in-state game. Requiring them to go out of state, where they might have to face mask-less opponents, in other to get a full schedule, or simply get to five games just to have the chance to qualify for the Division 1 state tournament.
Polk reaffirmed what has been said by DIAA Board President Dr. Bradley Layfield several times this month--scheduling is not something the DIAA handles.
"I think this is an educational moment that we're all going through in terms of what DIAA does and does not do. We know we are the governing body for athletics; however, there are certain things that people assume that we are supposed to do that are not in our regulatory statues. Understanding conferences being managed, we do not deal with the regular season, we deal with the post-season; we deal with ensuring the regulations that are approved by the state are followed--that's what our governing body does. We don't manage regular season. We will provide the guidance for the post-season for the regular season so teams can quality for the post-season, but we do not regulate how our members schools manage during the regular season as it relates to scheduling our their conference championships."
By initially voting down 1010, the board not only wiped out the schedule template for Delaware's amended sports seasons, but also eliminated COVID protocols on October 30.
"I don't think you guys understand the true impact that that's going to have on our member schools and how we need to govern and operate. We have no enforcement for our health and safety measures and protocols [that] we put in place. Because we don't have that in place, our members schools can follow it or don't have to follow it. Are we putting the health of our student-athletes at risk?"
After Polk's comment, Board Vice President Wali Rushdan, who initially voted against the proposal, called for a compromise.
"I would prefer to see an intentional effort to account for how the impact of the regulation - the potential inequitable impacts - can be addressed either in collaboration or consolation with member schools. Don't let that burden be carried by the member schools."
With that guidance in place, the regulation passed unanimously.
There is still one dark shadow looming over the state board and DIAA.
Salesianum, which has threatened a lawsuit, filed an appeal with the state Board of Education on Thursday to take a deeper look at the equity issue surrounding their schedule. It's unclear when that appeal would be heard, but the Delaware high school football season begins next Friday, October 23, 2020.
In 20 minutes the season was saved, but a complete season isn't out of the woods yet.