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PHOENIX — High school fall sports have the green light to begin.

After an extensive meeting Wednesday afternoon of the Arizona Interscholastic Association Executive Board, where it conducted a vote to endorse revised recommended guidelines from its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, the board gave its blessing to move forward.

There was speculation that the dates on the AIA’s fall sports calendar could be pushed back if the committee felt COVID-19 metrics were not yet at appropriate levels to return to athletic activities.

Instead, those dates will be followed. For football, that means official practices start Sept. 7, with the regular season kicking off Oct. 2. Volleyball practice began Monday, and its regular season will start Sept. 16.

The executive board is comprised of representatives from AIA member schools, including board president Toni Corona, who is the athletic director at Safford High School.

“With this data and the state’s recorded number of COVID-19 cases declining over the past two weeks, the board felt competitive sports and activities at the member schools can be successful within recommended guidelines,” the AIA stated in a press release.

The revised recommended guidelines are covered in a 17-page document, which is available to the public on the AIA’s website at azpreps365.com. This comes on the heels of the AIA releasing a document that covers several sport modifications that are designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during athletic activities.

“I would like to say on behalf of the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, especially for the sport of football, we would not have been able to make this decision until this time right now based on the metrics,” AIA executive director David Hines said in a statement. “So the metrics have gotten to a place that we can start football practice. That we can start the heat acclimatization (guidelines). That we can get kids in a helmet and shoulder pads and begin doing work.”

Other fall sports, such as golf, badminton and soccer, have already begun practices. Golf has also started official competitions.

Football schedules for Class 3A are already on the AIA website, but other conferences have yet to release schedules. Qualifications for making the postseason have also been modified for fall sports. According to the AIA, those qualifications are being reviewed and will appear on its website “when ready,” along with season dates and team schedules.

“To say we are happy to be where we are now is an understatement,” Hines said. “The board members really took their time to make sure that this could be done safely. We think it definitely can. With the help of everyone at our member schools doing their part, we can absolutely make this a memorable season.”

The winter sports season will start one week later than planned to accommodate the extension of the fall sports season.

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