The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Board of Control voted today to go forward with the plan from the governing board for high school sports in the state, released 13 days ago in light of the coronavirus pandemic, to play a fall sports season with abbreviated and regionalized schedules.
The decision was a partial surprise after the CIAC football committee on Monday recommended moving the sport to the spring to ensure the best chance of completing a full season.
According to someone familiar with today’s meeting, the Board of Control felt the football committee’s decision was not based on current health metrics, which in Connecticut currently are among the best in the country. All other sports committees had supported going forward with the plan. The Board of Control decided it did not want to move just one sport out of season.
“There really was nothing different today than when we released the plan on July 30,” CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini said.
That means there will be the first conditioning practices for football teams on Monday, which seemed doubtful for a 48-hour period until this afternoon. One of the most vocal supporters on social media of trying to play this fall has been Danbury football coach Augie Tieri.
“I’m shocked like everybody else,” Tieri said. “We are not starting until the end of September so that gives us a couple weeks to kind of sort things out and let things evolve. My reasoning paralleled what the CIAC’s reasoning is. The data is good. In the state we’ve done everything we’ve needed to do to get to this point where we could play. I think the CIAC has done a great job of putting forth very well-defined benchmarks that needed to be achieved in order for this to happen. While I’m very surprised based on the information that has been coming out the last few days that this would be the decision, I have to say I’m pleased.”
The CIAC’s press release reiterated that changes moving forward could come at any time depending on health considerations.
“As stated from the onset, our plan is fluid, under constant review, and may change at any point, based on new information,” the release read. “We will continue to consult with our education partners, medical experts, and review positions from state leaders and departments. However, the CIAC believes that the approved plan aligns with the educational interests of our member schools and provides the safest athletic experience for Connecticut student-athletes.
According to the plan, football teams will begin conditioning, in cohorts of 15, on Monday, with all other sports starting 10 days later. The first day of full team practices and contact is Sept. 11. Scrimmages can be held starting on Sept. 18.
All games will be played against regional opponents to reduce travel. The regular season will begin for all sports on Sept. 24 and run until Oct. 30. There is a window from Nov. 2-15 in each sport to allow for some kind of tournament play. A cross country postseason would run from Oct. 31-Nov. 8.
Football teams will be allowed a maximum of six regular season games. All other sports will have a limit of 12 regular season games or meets. Teams in all sports will then get to play two more games of what is termed a postseason experience.
FCIAC commissioner Dave Schulz confirmed this afternoon that the 16 league schools will be involved in three regions. Fairfield Prep will be in one, though not for football, and Warren Harding, Bassick and Wright Tech will be in regions in different sports.
Schulz also said that school districts have to sign off on participation in athletics.
Now the work can continue on completing regular-season schedules.
“Staples field hockey is extremely grateful to the CIAC for going above and beyond in proposing a plan that will get student athletes back outside and competing whilst keeping safety its ultimate goal; we look forward to seeing the finalized schedule,” Wreckers coach Ian Tapsall said via text message.
One important point of note from the Board of Controls meeting is that it is recommending fans not be allowed at games or practices.
“We understand the complexities of individual districts who use public fields and that the ultimate decision rests with the district, however, the CIAC believes that prohibiting fan/spectator attendance aligns best with the goals of education-based athletics,” the statement read.