From the Kentucky High School Athletic Association
Hello to all of the members of both the Kentucky Press Association and Kentucky Broadcasters Association. When we gathered and then adjourned abruptly at Rupp Arena last March, most of us had no idea what the next 12 months would hold. We left that fateful afternoon hopeful for a short pause and then the “normal” completion of the tournaments, followed by a complete spring season. Little did we know.
First, thank you. Thank you for your faithful service to our Commonwealth and, most importantly, to our member schools and communities and their most important asset, the students in our schools. We know you value each of them, whether or not they participate in sports and sport-activities, but we also know that the participants in sports and activities hold a place near and dear to so many of you.
Thank you also for your tremendous work in advocating on behalf of these sports and sport-activities. We know full well that it hurt you deep to your core, just like it did us, to have the situation arise where participation was halted last spring. So many unknowns, so many “what ifs,” and yet, the risks were simply too great. So we all did what we do best. We reviewed, we studied, we learned, we advocated, and we acted. And thankfully, we have been able to see fall sports through to a conclusion and rapidly approach the same conclusion for winter sports.
Almost the moment that those final winter championships were over in March of 2020 and the realization was made that we wouldn’t be playing spring sports, we began the work in earnest of preparing and planning for this year. That has meant almost constant consultation with health officials, school officials, coaches, officials and referees, and everyone involved in managing events. That has resulted in events that look different than they did before and may not look the same in the future. But they are happening. And for that, we remain thankful.
As we embark on these final winter championships, we planned with a primary media goal in mind relative to the members of the media. Where it was at all possible, to have you there. You are vital, you are important, and our Commonwealth needs you. But it won’t be like it was before. Not this year. We will be able to have media present at many upcoming championships, but not at all of them.
We know that next week’s bowling and wrestling events will look different. There will be constraints on media presence as the facilities simply do not have the capacity to allow for unlimited attendance. And our staff and Board have, all year long, prioritized full participation by students where possible and attendance by the parents of the students where feasible. Then we move along to try and get communities more involved. That is challenging, given the daunting state restrictions and the occasional conflict with those priorities. That has meant that many of you have not been able to attend all of the contests you wanted. Unfortunately, it is just life in the COVID world. We also know that media presence at the swim championships won’t be possible due to all of the facility restrictions. But again, we will get you the information you need to publicize teams in your areas.
While bowling hasn’t had a large presence of media at the event in the past, we have continued through our communications folks and the management of the event to try and get you all the information you need to highlight those students who merit recognition.
Wrestling presents a huge challenge. Much like the swimming meet that will be held later (at multiple sites due to facility restrictions), our tournament’s sheer size, combined with the current gathering restrictions, makes it problematic regarding the presence of a great deal of media. That is further illustrated by the fact that our existing tournament has been divided into four satellite competitions solely to maximize student participation. The current attendance restrictions make it nearly impossible to allow for much media attendance. The participant count is large, yet facilities are limited in capacity, and it is our commitment to ensure that where possible, parents get to see their child compete.
We have watched other events and other states that have not allowed parents to attend. If it is possible, that should not occur. So in prioritizing, there will be limits on media coverage of the Wrestling events. But again, our communications team will ensure through our website that everything you need, including photography, is available to give these students the best possible coverage.
From day one in planning, we hoped for a triumphant recovery and a return to our events with the basketball tournaments. Surely, the very event that was the start of the “shutdowns” last spring would be back to full strength this time around. But alas, it wasn’t to be. BUT, we will have a media presence, even if it is dramatically different than in the past.
There are a few things we WON’T have at this year’s Sweet 16®s such as:
- A hospitality room to continue the exchange of decades of stories (many that were repeated each year).
- A full contingent of courtside seating allowing for the annual reunion of so many folks.
- An interview room full of media, coaches, and players where all could share in the thrill of victory, and yes, the agony of defeat.
- Reams of paper detailing statistics passed out at regular intervals throughout the arena (though the information will be available live online).
- Hallway pregame interviews in the locker corridor or locker rooms, and likely not courtside.
But here are a few things we WILL have along with others:
- The row of grandfathered radio stations along the side of the court.
- An opportunity for press interviews (using that platform we have all grown weary of, Zoom).
- An opportunity for photo needs to be met for so many of our press outlets who have genuinely struggled not only with the changing times but due to the pandemic, and yet have persevered throughout the pandemic to keep their citizens informed.
- An opportunity for participating teams to designate a couple of specific outlets that they want to be sure are present courtside and available.
- An opportunity for media outlets to view the games via the NFHS Network to be able, in real-time, update their listeners, viewers, or readers.
- A statewide radio network with coverage of all of the games of both weeks.
As we finalize plans, know a few things that are vital:
- Yes, masks are required—all the time. Yes, even if you are broadcasting. If you don’t want to do that, we would ask that you, please simply stay away this year, and we will see you in 2022 and welcome you back with open arms.
- All assigned seating will be one person per six-foot table, even radio crews.
- Radio crews will be strictly limited in terms of both issued credentials and court-side seating. There will be no exceptions.
- There is no access from the sides of the arena to the floor, and no opportunity for fans from the seating bowl to come down to be interviewed, etc., so more preparation will be needed for those breaks and time between games.
- Not all media will have unlimited access to the floor as seating will be assigned.
- Each team will be able to designate media outlets to ensure coverage, but it is possible if you don’t have a team in the tournament directly in your coverage area, you will be denied access this year, even if you have a history of attendance.
- There will be a myriad of facility changes, not only due to COVID-19, but also due to ongoing renovations. You will need to pay close attention to notices from Communications Director Joe Angolia and others in our office as they will keep you up to date.
- Simply put, these events will look different. But we will get to play. Something they haven’t been able to say in many of our sister states. We also recognize that every media seat we allocate is a potential parent or fan not being able to attend. That’s the problem with restricted attendance. But we will continue to walk that tight rope and give you the resources needed, as much as possible, to cover your coverage area teams.
We look forward to that day in a couple of weeks where we can say, “Welcome back, we sure missed you.”