Athletes, coaches and fans of high school spring sports now have another month to sit, wait and wonder if there will be another swing of the bat, another kick of the ball or another bang of the starting gun.

On Tuesday, the Utah High School Activities Association extended its initial spring sports and activities suspension to May 1 after implementing a two-week suspension earlier this month.

The move was made as the COVID-19 pandemic shreds apart daily life in Utah and the United States, as people try to distance themselves from each other to limit the spread of the virus and large gatherings have been disbanded across all areas of life.

For high school sports fans, it begs the question. Will spring sports be played this year?

"There’s been discussions internally on steps moving forward and there’s been discussions with stakeholders and feedback with them. However we’re still at a point based on the ever-developing nature of this public health crisis it would be irresponsible to comment at this time on what things look like a month from now," UHSAA assistant director Jon Oglesby told the Standard-Examiner.

On the surface, the UHSAA wants to see its spring sports championships played out.

Its assistant director, Jeff Cluff, said Tuesday on the Devin Dixon radio show on ESPN 97.7 in St. George that the UHSAA is trying to do everything it can not to cancel the championships.

"We’re not in a cancellation mode. If we were, we would’ve done it before now," Cluff said on the show.

Cluff did stress that the UHSAA wants to play only if it's safe to play and in "no way" will it put kids in jeopardy.

It's a complicated situation, and part of the decision might not be in the association's hands.

When Gov. Gary Herbert announced Monday an extension to the state's K-12 public school soft closure through May 1, that essentially forced the UHSAA's hand, which extended its initial spring sports and activities suspension through May 1 the next morning.

What happens if Herbert comes back in two weeks and orders public K-12 schools to finish the school year by remote learning? Would the UHSAA turn its activity suspension into a full-on cancellation? That's where things get murky.

The last time the United States experienced a widespread disruption of daily life on this current magnitude was during World War II, which happens to be the last time a spring sport championship wasn't contested in Utah (baseball in 1943, according to the UHSAA record book).

Boys track and field has contested a state championship every year since 1911, a streak that survived World War I, the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 and World War II.

Already, the current May 1 suspension date throws a wrench into some of the currently scheduled spring sports playoffs. One way or another, there will have to be major adjustments to calendars and schedules if play indeed resumes in May.

As scheduled, the first round of the 4A, 3A and 2A boys soccer state tournament would be April 24. The second round is scheduled for April 29. The 3A-2A softball and baseball tournaments start April 27.

Oglesby didn't elaborate on what's being considered for those specific tournaments.

Monday, May 4, is the scheduled first round of the 4A baseball and softball state tournaments.

Cluff elaborated by telling Dixon that if it means pushing the spring sports season out past Memorial Day so the UHSAA can get the championships played, an unprecedented move under normal circumstances, "then we go on."

The UHSAA is working on scenarios of what things could or could not look like, but it's not in a position to know if any of those scenarios will happen.

Meanwhile, the suspension also includes practices and team activities, which muddy the waters further.

When, or if, the season resumes, teams are likely going to be short on practice and then have to jump into a truncated schedule. That presents player safety issues all across the board, but perhaps none more than in baseball.

State associations have implemented pitch count limitations in recent years, attempting to mitigate the trend of baseball players coming down with long-term injuries such as torn ulnar collateral ligaments (UCL) that require Tommy John elbow surgery.

Who's to say that pitchers have the capability to throw regular bullpen sessions to keep their pitching arms loose and conditioned during the remote learning/quarantine period?

And if they do have the capability, who's to say they're actually doing it?

Another consideration has to do with the social distancing guidelines — keeping 6 feet of distance from people as much as possible — implemented across the state and country. 

Gov. Herbert has strongly recommended people avoid gatherings of 10 or more people for the foreseeable future.

Twenty baseball or softball players and a handful of coaches crammed into one dugout probably isn't the best way to practice social distancing in the state's eyes.

Neither is cramming 20 soccer players on to one row of bleachers on the sideline. Neither is having dozens of track and field teams, with their dozens of student athletes, converge on one location for a track meet.

Another consideration of resuming the season is the logistics of state championships, all currently scheduled for some time in May.

State soccer championship games are scheduled for Rio Tinto Stadium, the track and field state meet is scheduled to be held at BYU, baseball at Utah Valley University and softball at various locations, including the Taylorsville softball complex.

Oglesby didn't give specifics, but clearly there are some scheduling hurdles the UHSAA would have to clear with Real Salt Lake, BYU and UVU if it wanted to reschedule the state championships at those same locations.

Those are just a few of the questions and variables that have to be addressed before spring sports can resume, if they resume at all.

For now, the soccer nets sway in the wind, the baseball bats gather dust and everyone sits and waits, wondering if the storm has an end.

You can reach prep sports reporter Patrick Carr via email at pcarr@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter @patrickcarr_ and on Facebook at facebook.com/patrickcarr17/.

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