GAYLORD — Fred Bryant’s fourth set of basketball schedules await.
The Cadillac athletic director scrapped schedules for boys and girls basketball several times this year already, and the fourth version sits around the corner if Gov. Gretchen Whitmer doesn’t reverse course and allow winter contact sports to resume prior to Feb. 22.
The Big North Conference plans on a Tuesday/Thursday schedule once basketball starts back up. When that happens is anyone’s guess, but the league also changed the order to play varsity games first and junior varsity second to keep referees — who will be very busy in a condensed season — fresh for the 5:30 pm. varsity contests. Not playing on Friday also makes finding officials easier. BNC athletic directors found referees for all currently-scheduled games.
“In my opinion, the hard part is just not having that set date,” Bryant said. “Because every time we’ve gotten the right date, we’ve been able to plan pretty quickly. But right now everything has just been so crazy and I’ve got three versions of the schedule in my book right now, and getting ready to put a fourth one together.”
Big North Conference athletic directors met Wednesday in Gaylord to discuss many issues facing the league that features all of the area’s biggest teams, largely scheduling with the looming spectre of COVID-19 delays, protocols and safety measures.
“It’s a lot of time, it’s frustration,” Petoskey AD Joel Dohm said. “We’re just hoping that we get rolling. That’s the big point here, is let’s get rolling for the kids. The kids don’t need to be caught in this mess, and we need to give them some normalcy in their lives. That’s really what we’re shooting for.”
Alpena’s Jon Studley was not at the meeting, and Traverse City Central’s Zac Stevenson and TC West’s Jason Carmien attended virtually via Zoom, with Gaylord’s Christian Wilson, Bryant and Dohm in person at Gaylord High School.
The Tuesday-Thursday basketball format also allows teams to pick up nonconference Saturday games and sneak in three contests some weeks. The Tuesday and Thursday contests will be in league, as schools play the same BNC foe with girls at one school and boys at the other.
The ADs discussed sliding any games scheduled between Feb. 4 and 22 to the end of the schedule if the state doesn’t reverse course and sticks to the Feb. 22 start date.
“The one thing is my coaches have been awesome,” Dohm said. “They’ve been working through it, especially hockey. They do a lot of their own scheduling because they know that ice arena.”
Many athletic directors are holding off on changing schedules to assume a Feb. 22 start, leaving what’s already in place unchanged in case Whitmer changes stance on delaying winter sports.
“It’s been as good as it could be because the guys in the Big North work well together and and really we’ve been able to find nonconference games fairly easily,” Bryant said. “But I think if they condense the season, we’re just going to be happy to get our 10 conference games in. And I think we’ll be able to do that. It just depends on the amount of time that we have.”
Petoskey plans to allow 100 fans in for each game, giving two tickets to each player and only using one side of the gym for seating. TC Central will place fans in the upper part of the gym, leaving the lower bleachers unoccupied. Gaylord is making up 50 blue laminated passes that varsity players can give to whomever they want. JV players will get yellow passes. The other 50 for each game would be for the visitors.
Gyms will be cleared out in between varsity and JV games.
Athletic directors hope for three-official crews, but may have some games with only two, especially if schedules must be redone again and the season condenses.
Tickets will be limited to one per wrestler for double duals, as each of the four teams would have 25 to split up.
Bryant estimated baseball and softball could still get in 32-34 games if the spring start gets pushed back into April.