Dr. D Sports: VHSL Sports Will Play

The Virginia High School League officially approved its “Championship + 1” schedule by a unanimous vote for the upcoming high-school athletic year during an Executive Committee meeting on Thursday.

The condensed schedule for sports was needed after the executive committee voted in July not to play sports this fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the “Championship + 1” schedule, all teams in all sports will play about 60% of what they would normally play in a regular season under the Condensed Interscholastic Plan but still have an opportunity to advance to regional and state play.

“We have received invaluable input from our school communities, parents, and students who say the physical and mental health benefits of getting our students back to a level of participation is extremely important,” said VHSL Executive Director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun.   “The Championships + 1 schedule will provide sports in all three seasons.

 “The VHSL Executive Committee acknowledges that no plan is perfect. We are in unprecedented times in which we have been forced to create a temporary new normal. We understand this plan, or any plan, will not meet the expectations for those wanting a normal fall, winter, and spring sports season. This plan, however, will allow student-athletes and academic activity participants the opportunity of having a season and playing for a state championship.”

For winter sports, high-school basketball teams can start practice on December 7 with games starting on December 21. Each team will play 14 regular season games. Regional playoffs will start on February 8 with state championship games set for February 20. Only regional champions will advance to the state tournament.

Traditional fall sports will start on February 4 when football can begin practice while volleyball will start practice on February 15. Football teams will play six regular season games in seven weeks beginning on February 22 with regional playoffs starting on April 7. VHSL title games will be played on May 1. Volleyball teams will play 12 regular season matches starting on March 1 with the regional playoffs starting on April 12 and state title matches to be played on April 23-24. Golf teams can begin practice on February 15 and play eight regular season matches with the regional tournament beginning on April 12 and the state tournament to be played on April 19.

For spring sports, baseball, soccer and softball can begin practice on April 12. Baseball and softball teams will play 12 regular season games while soccer will play 10 matches. The regular season will begin on April 26 while regional playoffs will start on June 14 with state title games set for June 26. Only regional champions will advance to the state tournament.

The biggest change in the playoff format is that only the top four football teams from each region will qualify for the playoffs which is half of the usual eight.

The state playoffs will not have a quarterfinal round this year meaning a team will need to win the regional championship to advance to the state semifinals. 

For regional playoffs other than football, each region will determine the number of qualifiers and format, but only one team will advance to state play.

State playoff games will be played at the higher seed, unless the site doesn’t meet VHSL requirements.

The “Plus 1” will allow teams that do not qualify for the regional playoffs to play one additional contest during the regional playoff time period as a final game for the season.