STEVENS POINT – Some schools were prevented from putting a state-title trophy on display.
But without completion of the WIAA (Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association) state finals for girls and boys basketball, the losses by programs, players and their families are hypothetical. They may have reached their given division’s championship game, then again they may also have been trounced in the opening round and relegated to a quiet ride home.
However, the losses for WIAA are definite.
The recent proclamation to scrap the boys and girls state basketball finals due to concerns about spreading the (COVID-19) coronavirus essentially pulled a financial rug out from under WIAA. The non-profit organization that essentially organizes and supervises high school athletics in Wisconsin relies heavily upon income from these state finals in order to operate and based strictly on the books, this virus couldn’t have arrived in a worse time.
“(State finals income) is a large percentage of the (WIAA) budget,” communications director Todd Clark said. “It’s 80-85 percent of our revenue and boys basketball is by far the biggest sport as far as revenue for our operating budget.”
The possibility of postponing, if not canceling the state finals, became a realistic scenario early last week as confirmed cases of coronavirus began to rise in the United States. By midweek, word from Madison forced WIAA’s hand, at least regarding boys basketball.
WIAA was notified by University of Wisconsin-Madison that The Kohl Center – which hosts both the high school boys basketball state finals and home games for UW-Madison basketball and hokey – would not be available for the playoff games, scheduled to start this weekend.
UW-Green Bay – the host site for the girls basketball state finals – followed suit before the end of the week, also deciding to close its doors for an undetermined amount of time in an effort to prevent spreading the virus. Therefore, multiple days of potential revenue from two different sites were effectively lost for WIAA.
According to Clark, financial and emergency planning by WIAA should prevent these cancelations from becoming catastrophic for the non-profit.
“From what I understand, there’s always a reserve (fund) with state athletic associations,” he said. “We’ve been pretty good about not overspending and from reports we’ve heard, there isn’t financial jeopardy, even though most of the operating budget is derived from (state final) ticket sales.
“But we’re still busy trying to figure-out the entire impact.”
Clark and other WIAA employees had little time between confirmation of cancelations and the end of the week to research state athletics history, but he doesn’t recall another instance of such postseason scheduling chaos during his time.
“We think the last time something like this has happened in Wisconsin was during World War II,” he said. “Some sports had rations and were cutting-down on miles traveled. That year, they took results from sectionals to determine state champions.”
While that won’t be the case in this instance, WIAA and school administrations statewide now shift focus to spring sports, which are likely to have at least a delayed start. Wisconsin governor Tony Evers announced a mandatory temporary close to schools K-12 today, if not earlier. This, just two weeks before the scheduled start of spring sports like baseball and softball.
“We’re continuing to talk to health officials and the situation seems to be ever-evolving,” Clark said.