Fluid. It is the one word that Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference executive director Glenn Lungarini has used for the past month as he continues to navigate a winding course in an attempt to give high school athletes in the state a chance at a fall season, and the best one possible.
And whether you believe there should be an attempt for sports to be played over the next three months or not, there is no disputing the CIAC is trying diligently to provide an opportunity.
Which is why some of the overly negative reactions to a process that tomorrow reaches four weeks is head-scratching. Not regarding the length; as we will get to, the revised plan makes the most sense for those who propose trying to have a fall season. It should have been settled a while ago.
But when people take to social media to now complain about the number of players in a cohort dropping from 15 to 10, as called for in a revised plan for fall sports the CIAC released last night, implemented for additional safety to enhance the chances of playing fall sports, all rationality has been thrown out the window.
So as we hear all the accusations that the decision is political, conspiratorial and everything else in between, let me remind you, as I did in a column 13 days ago, with a little more emphasis where to point your fingers.
BLAME THE PANDEMIC.
The pandemic doesn’t care if we play sports, go to school or return to indoor events. And the pandemic is the ultimate arbiter.
I’m on the record saying there is no right or wrong answer whether to play due to a coronavirus that has left us no playbook. I am an advocate of waiting for schools to be in session two weeks and then looking at the health metrics. If they remain positive introduce sports. Because we are going to have some outbreaks, we just don’t know to what extent.
And this is essentially the CIAC’s revised plan. Take a measured approach, pass thresholds and then add activities with a higher degree of risk to practices. If all goes well, we kick off the fall season on Oct. 1.
At this morning’s press conference at CIAC headquarters in Cheshire, Lungarini said that if today was Oct. 1 the metrics would look good to play. Schools will determine whether there will be in-person, hybrid or remote learning based on limits for new cases of COVID per 100,000 people. If that number goes above 25, schools would be limited to remote learning and the CIAC would suspend all sports activities.
This is all a reasonable approach, and goes against the state Department of Health’s recommendation that both football and girls volleyball get moved to the spring, unless they were made moderate risks by moving football to 7 on 7 and playing volleyball outdoors.
So far Gov. Ned Lamont has been comfortable letting the CIAC make the call. And Lungarini again affirmed that talks with the DPH will be ongoing.
Both the current health metrics and the mental health of athletes are the two biggest reasons play-sports proponents point to. The numbers are favorable now and we don’t know if they will get any better.
As far as the mental health component, we don’t know if that is a greater or lesser risk than physical health with the coronavirus. And as someone who suffers from anxiety issues, has had a couple of bouts with depression and tries to help others when possible, I am the last person who will be dismissive of the topic.
Another X factor is what superintendents may decide. Athletes in several school districts have already been told they will not be able to participate and that number is likely to grow. Lungarini said if there was any question, superintendents would likely be more inclined to follow the recommendations from DPH.
Lungarini best summed up the plan today: “We think it’s safe, we think it’s logical, we think it allows for progression. We think it addresses the social, emotional and mental needs of our kids.”
So now we go forward and hope for the best. We wear masks, remain socially distant and do all the basics that can be controlled. We wait for schools to open and hope it all goes safely. If so, five weeks from today the fall season begins.
But it’s fluid.