The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference today announced its plan for the fall sports season, which calls for teams in all sports to play abbreviated schedules, still to be determined, with competition beginning two weeks later than their initial starting dates.
The proposal was set to be revealed yesterday until there were a few late changes made in the afternoon that needed to be approved by school superintendents.
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 each sport will play no more than twice a week.
Based on the plan that was to be released yesterday, it is expected any postseason would give all teams two more games.
All teams will be eligible, regardless of record, to participate in playoffs to ensure playing the maximum number of games.
FCIAC Could Release Fall Schedule By Midweek
Glenn Lungarini, the CIAC’s executive director, stressed that this is a fluid situation because of the uncertain future due to the coronavirus pandemic, which caused the state’s ruling board for high school sports to cancel the remainder of the winter sports season on March 10 and then the entire spring season.
“While it is appropriate now to come back and play, we know that the data, understanding the healthy metrics of COVID, can change at any time and on a daily basis,” Lungarini said. “We will be in a perpetual state of evaluation. As the CIAC demonstrated in March, if we feel that it is unsafe we are not afraid to make that call and stop playing sports. Right now the health metrics in Connecticut suggest it is safe.”
Not everyone shares that opinion. While the CIAC was busy hammering out the final details yesterday, an advisor to Gov. Ned Lamont warned against holding contact sports.
During Lamont’s press briefing yesterday, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a vice provost for global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania, was asked whether football could be played this fall.
“You’re going to have to have changes in athletics,” Emanuel, part of the Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group, said. “Indoor contact sports are just not going to be possible … and then you’re going to need to rethink extracurricular activities. We do need to be safe and put safety No. 1, and I think contact sports are not a good idea. You can’t have a bubble in high school. You have transportation, you have a lot of things that are going to complicate having a football season. I think for one year, we’re probably going to have to take a miss on it.”
Lungarini said the CIAC consulted with a wide array of sources, including the Connecticut State Medical Society Sports Medicine Committee, the State Department of Education, the Department of Public Health, the Connecticut Athletic Trainers Association, the Connecticut Association of Athletic Directors, the Connecticut High School Coaches Association, superintendents, principals, officials and legislators in putting together a plan that stresses the welfare of students and then giving athletes the best experience possible.
“Safety first, tying into education and curriculum experiences second and providing kids overall the best and most meaningful opportunities that we can to develop relationships and address all of our kids’ physical, social and emotional and mental health needs,” Lungarini said. “We want to maximize playing opportunities for kids.”
The CIAC took into account that trying to get from the beginning to a successful completion of the season will be an obstacle course, with unexpected barriers likely to appear at any time.
The release by the CIAC states “COVID health metrics and data in Connecticut will continue to be closely monitored and the appropriateness of holding youth sport and/or interscholastic athletic contests can change at any time. The CIAC will continue to consult with our stakeholders and will adjust offerings as appropriate, including the stop of interscholastic athletics, should the health metrics direct that action.”
There are several stages until the first games are played. First practices, in cohorts of 15, will begin on Aug. 17 in football and 10 days later in all other sports. The first day of full teams and contact will be Sept. 11. Scrimmages can be held starting on Sept. 18.
There are time guidelines for all preseason work, as well as numerous safety and hygiene protocols. Locker rooms are supposed to be avoided as much as possible. Volleyball teams, instead of rotating, will remain on the same side of the court.
As far as fan attendance, each school district will be allowed to adopt its own policy. “The CIAC understands that playing games without fans may be appropriate for some schools but not logistically possible for others,” the release reads. “Any allowance for spectators/fans should provide well marked areas that maintain social distancing and follow capacity guidelines established in Connecticut’s Phase 2 reopening plan.”
While the CIAC has drawn out broad parameters, there are a number of questions left unanswered. League commissioners will begin meeting on Monday regarding schedules and possible regional postseason tournaments.
The FCIAC could play an all-league schedule and have a conference championship. One rumor with football is that teams will play a six-game schedule regionally based on class size, followed by two rounds of playoffs. The sport could also maintain its current format in a condensed and regional version.
FCIAC commissioner Dave Schulz said the league has already started putting together a schedule that now needs to be fine-tuned. He said it could be released by Wednesday.
Lungarini, who has taken a conservative stance over the past four and a half months, said the current positive health metrics in the state are cause for hope.
“That gives us cautious optimism that it is safe for us to play,” Lungarini said.