The latest fall sports domino fell Thursday afternoon.
The Badger Conference will follow the Big Eight Conference’s decision from last week and will cancel fall sports competitions and championships.
A news release from the conference that was planned for Friday at noon leaked out to some media outlets Thursday, including 1070 AM The Game, which first reported the story.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly posed challenges for planning events of all types throughout our nation, state and local communities,” the statement read. “The goal of the Badger Conference, first and foremost, continues to be the health and safety of our school district communities.
“Since all member schools are not able to participate fully in conference contests during the current fall season dates as scheduled, Badger Conference competitions will not be held and conference champions will not be named.”
The Badger’s North and South conferences include 16 schools that are located in seven different counties.
"With the volume of teams in Dane County that follows the Dane County guidelines that just aren't able to compete, we thought we would move forward so the teams that can potentially can compete can start filling in games," Fort Atkinson Athletic Director Steve Mahoney said. "It was in our best interest with 50 percent of of the Badger schools in Dane County. It wouldn't be fair to determine a conference champion or an all-conference award this year with only half the participants."
Mahoney said Ever's statewide mask mandate had no bearing on the conference's decision to cancel the fall sports season and was in the works for almost two weeks.
Fort Atkinson will still compete in fall sports, but it won't be sponsored by the conference and some sports may not happen. Conference teams also will still be able to play each other.
"We're still going to have sports," Mahoney said. "Will we compete in some sports? Maybe not."
Mahoney said he feels confident in the chances for the low-risk sports (girls tennis, girls swimming, cross country and golf) to happen in the fall.
There is also the option, as set forth by the WIAA last week, to pursue playing fall sports during the spring season, again depending on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic. That option will only be available for teams that host no competitions in the fall season.
"Football theoretically could play in the spring with baseball," Mahoney said. "What we need to do locally is find out what is in the best interest. There are some issues immediately that arise. Facilities, sharing of athletes, sharing of coaches. Putting kids in a position where they have to choose.
"Some schools may choose to use it (spring option), some schools may not choose to use it."
“All schools will be supported in their local decisions,” the Badger Conference’s release states.
The Big Eight and the Badger are the first two conferences in the state to announce their plans to cancel fall sports. Collegiately, the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and Midwest Conference were among area NCAA Division III leagues that announced this week that they will not be playing fall sports, either.
Mahoney met with Jefferson County athletic directors on Friday and is hoping to build schedules around local teams.
"The biggest thing for us right now is to assume at some point that we expect to play, so we want to make sure our schedules are filled out, Mahoney said.
This story was updated Friday at 1:05 p.m.