For the first time since 1993, the West Virginia Super Six Football Championships will not be held in Wheeling.
The three state championship football games will be played this year at Charleston’s Laidley Field at University of Charleston Stadium, which hosted the games prior to their move to Wheeling Island Stadium. Secondary School Activities Commission Executive Director Bernie Dolan made the announcement Friday morning because Ohio County is still “firmly entrenched” in “orange” on the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources COVID-19 alert map. Prep sports teams whose counties are in “orange” are not allowed to compete.
The published schedule of games will still be used. The AA final will kick off the weekend on Friday night. The AAA game will be played at noon one week from today and the Class A championship game will close the weekend.
Though it’s only a temporary change, disappointment was still prevalent for Super Six Committee members Dwaine Rodgers and Greg Stewart.
“I thought our group did an excellent job of pulling together and doing what we could do,” Stewart said. “We did all of the things we needed to do to be ready to host the event, but it still hasn’t really sunk in yet.”
Rodgers — who is the Director of Athletics at Wheeling Park — has known that the possibility of the map forcing the SSAC’s hand was a strong possibility.
“It’s been a process and we knew being orange or red (on the map) was going to dictate to us,” Rodgers said. “Greg and I offered some thoughts and opinions to Bernie, but honestly, I am not sure I could have came up with anything different and I have to credit our leadership at the SSAC and (Gov. Jim Justice) for even allowing the kids even the chance to play.”
Along with the sports impact, the effects also will be felt in Ohio County and the entire Ohio Valley in terms of the economy. Through prior economic impact studies, it has been estimated that the Super Six brings in upwards of $1 million to the area when restaurant traffic, hotel stays and shopping are considered. Dolan told the Ohio County group that the SSAC wanted to make the decision on Friday to help give Charleston as much time as possible to prepare.
While the site is established, the status of the games is not.
With state semifinals slated to be played this weekend around the Mountain State, several games remain up in the air because of the school map that will be released at 5 p.m. Saturday. Should the counties of teams involved in the state semifinals and eventually the state championship games be listed as orange or red, the games involving those schools will not be played.
According to Dolan, the system will remain the same that’s been in place since the opening round. If the matchup is set, and one school can play because its county is at green, yellow or gold on the map, but the other can’t, the school able to play will be named the winner.
“Obviously, there’s a question and debate about a true championship,” Rodgers said. “That’s for other people to discuss and answer. To me, it’s a plus that we have kids playing to try to finish (the season).”
Stewart expressed most of his remorse for the student-athletes who aren’t able to play because their county is the wrong color. That’s been going on throughout the tournament and cost three area teams — Parkersburg, Williamstown and Ripley — the ability to play in the postseason already.
During the football playoffs, the SSAC has pushed some games to Sunday to give counties involved an additional chance to come off the two colors that call for extracurricular activities to shut down. That option was not used in the recent state volleyball championships in Charleston, so it will not be used for football because of Title IX concerns.
Dolan said the move to Charleston is a one-year deal and Wheeling will not lose a year of its recently negotiated contract. Assuming COVID-19 issues are resolved and things are as back to normal as possible, Wheeling will host the Super Six in 2021-24.
Both Rodgers and Stewart already have started thinking about the 2021 event and want to make it as special of an event as possible. That motivation doesn’t stem from not having the event this year. It’s because they want to do all they can for the kids of the competing schools.
“We always want to try to do it better (than we did the year before),” Rodgers said. “We all have that mindset that we want to do the best we can with it each year.”
One of the things that the Ohio County group does for the kids is put together gift bags for each participant. Stewart and Rodgers plan to either deliver or send those bags to Charleston.
“We want to get it right for the kids,” Stewart said.