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Birmingham City Schools ends sub-varsity basketball as COVID cases rise

Published: Dec. 2, 2020 at 10:33 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Birmingham City Schools is ending the season early for some of it’s basketball programs.

The district started basketball season with 43 teams playing, but now they only have 14 teams. Seven teams are boys varsity and seven are girls teams.

“We tried our best to fill all the teams for basketball season and it just wasn’t going well,” Birmingham City Schools Athletic Director Henry Pope said. “If we couldn’t do it to the point where we felt the student-athletes at Birmingham City Schools were safe, then we wouldn’t do it. That’s why we had to do it this way.”

Pope said the decision comes after cases of COVID-19 were rising in the state and more athletes were testing positive.

“Especially lately,” Pope said. “In the last couple weeks, the numbers have grown.”

The canceled teams include middle school, 9th grade and junior varsity. Pope said it includes cheerleading programs as well. Now, there are only 7 cheer teams. Pope said it’s not that the district favors varsity teams. He said varsity is the only level of play that offers opportunity for everyone.

“Anyone in grade seven through 12 can participate in Varsity level play,” he said. “So, that is the only team that anyone in grade seven through 12 can participate in. If we decided to keep any other team, than it would eliminate 11th and 12th graders from being able to play. So, we wanted to make it to the point where anybody can play.”

Pope said because basketball is played indoors, social distancing was more difficult for them than it was during football season. He said they have changed capacity limits at varsity games to 100-125 spectators.

“It allows us to have less games played in a gymnasium so we can continue to sanitize and sanitize better,” Pope said.

Pope said without all the teams competing, the district will likely lose around 40% of revenue.

“We did see a significant decrease in funding for athletics when it comes to gate receipts and things of that magnitude,” Pope said. “But, we did get assistance from the Board of Education and the general fund.”

Pope said it was a tough decision, but one the district had to make for safety.

“We don’t want them to feel that we don’t have love for their sport or love for them,” he said. “It is our love for them that makes us do the things that we are doing.”

Pope said the district will keep watching case numbers and will end the varsity season if they need to.

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