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AIA votes to let schools decide winter sports; masks mandated at games

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Posted at 12:06 PM, Jan 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-14 10:06:24-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story stated that no spectators would be allowed at games under the AIA's rules. The AIA voted to allow up to two spectators per athlete at games, though schools can decide to allow fewer. The story below has been corrected.

Winter sports may proceed at some schools in Arizona after a reversal from the Arizona Interscholastic Association Tuesday morning.

The AIA voted 5-4 at its meeting Tuesday to allow schools to decide whether their basketball, soccer and wrestling teams participate in the 2021 season. The decision comes following another 5-4 vote on Friday that declared winter sports season canceled for the year. AIA Board Member Jim Love, who comes from the Flowing Wells Governing Board, was the deciding vote.

RELATED: AIA cancels winter sports season

While schools can determine the status of their winter sports, there will still be strict regulations. All players, coaches and officials have to wear masks at all times during games. Both teams will also have to submit completed health questionnaires by each team on game day in order to play. Schools may also decide whether to allow up to two spectators per athlete at games.

The AIA board's decision goes against its own sports medicine advisory committee, which presented its findings and recommendation before Friday's vote.

The board's reversal also comes amid backlash from players, parents and coaches across the state. A basketball player in the Phoenix area compiled a list of 35,000 names from an online petition calling for the board to reverse its decision.

Schools may still defer the decision to county health departments, and the Pima County Health Department may still recommend against the plan.

The season is set to begin Jan. 18 under the board's decision.

A Tucson Unified School District said it remained in modified Phase II for basketball and soccer, while wrestling remained in Phase I. The district will solidify its plans next week.

A Catalina Foothills School District spokeswoman said its winter sports season would occur with additional mitigation requirements. The wrestling season will be canceled.

Flowing Wells Unified School District superintendent David Baker said the district will continue its winter sports.

A Marana Unified School District spokeswoman said the district will play winter sports.

A Sahuarita Unified School District spokeswoman said "Sahuarita USD is evaluating the AIA's decision in the context of the COVID data trends, consulting with the district, high school, and athletic leadership as well as seeking feedback from the Pima County Health Department."