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AIA overturns decision to cancel winter high school sports in Arizona

After canceling the winter high school sports season in Arizona last week, the AIA has overturned that decision.

PHOENIX — After canceling the winter high school sports season in Arizona last week, the Arizona Interscholastic Association has overturned that decision.

It came in a 5-4 vote on Tuesday morning, making Jan. 18 once again the start date for basketball, soccer and wrestling.

There will be no fans permitted and masks will be mandatory during competition. 

Competition was supposed to begin on Jan. 18 after being pushed back last month. At that time, the AIA said the  "only thing that could create a statewide delay or change to this date would be government prohibition or shutdown." 

According to the AIA, the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) made a recommendation on Jan. 7 to the AIA’s Executive Board to cancel the high school winter sports season and they did so with a 5-4 vote on Jan. 8.

The committee recommended to the board that hospital capacity be considered an important factor when considering the winter season. "This week in Arizona, 93% of all Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds and 92% of all inpatient beds are in use, leaving concern that injured students may be unable to receive needed care due to a lack of beds or available medical professionals," a release from the AIA read.

Players and coaches around the state reacted negatively to the decision last week.

High school football started in Arizona late September, delayed about one month, after the AIA approved updated recommendations from its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee in August of last year. The season ended in mid-December with each division finishing the season with championship games. 

In early December, Phoenix canceled all field reservations in the city’s parks over the next several months due to the spread of the virus. 

Professional and collegiate teams are currently playing in Arizona without fans. The Arizona Cardinals had fans at some home games during their season, but none at their final three home games due to the spread of COVID-19 in Arizona.

The Phoenix Suns began their season in late December and are not playing in front of fans. 

The Arizona Coyotes announced they would start their season this week allowing 3,450 fans into Gila River Arena for home games.