Wednesday afternoon brought a sizeable dynamic shift just a few days after Gov. Steve Sisolak started loosening COVID-19 restrictions.
With COVID numbers slowing for now, the governor decided that Nevada could reopen slowly and, in doing so, pulled high school football off of the no-play list.
The fall sports slate is scheduled to begin competition Thursday, March 4, per previous NIAA statements, and will run until Saturday, April 10, which is the last possible date for scheduled competition.
Gov. Sisolak stated that host schools will be responsible for compliance obligations and all activates must be cleared by local school districts in order to compete.
Sisolak also stated that the NIAA must find a way to have weekly testing for players, coaches and other staff in order to play.
Attendance for sporting events must still fall under Governor Sisolak’s current directives on capacity-limited gatherings.
“Resumption of full contact sports only applies to those regulated by the NIAA,” said Sisolak. “Now, it’s up to the local school districts. … There’s been a lot of demand in Washoe and the rural counties for us to move forward.”
The decision comes three days before football practice was set to begin under NIAA designation.
NIAA gives update
About 90 minutes after Sisolak’s press conference, the NIAA held a 25-minute press conference of its own to address the changes to the state of athletics.
Executive Director Bart Thompson said it’s possible for six football games to be played if schools were ready to go, but five games seemed like the most likely scenario for most programs.
Though football has lost a couple days of practice, the NIAA anticipates that any school wiling to take the appropriate safety measures should be able to move forward with scheduling competition in the near future.
Clark County is still not expected to participate in fall sports.
NIAA assistant director Donnie Nelson and Thompson both took the time to give their condolences to the basketball and wrestling athletes that lost a season.
“They kind of got strung along during the winter season, hoping we might see a change. Unfortunately, that did not come,” said Thompson.
“From our hearts, we are sorry,” said Nelson. “We certainly feel for our seniors. For all of our participants of basketball and wrestling, our hearts go out to you.”
The NIAA said it plans on spending the coming days implementing a testing program for all coaches, staff and athletes that will allow contests to be conducted in a safe manor.