The high school football season has always been synonymous with Thanksgiving rivalries, but in an ever-changing world due to the coronavirus pandemic, Thanksgiving games may give way to Memorial Day.
The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s football committee voted on Monday to recommend the football season be pushed back to the spring of 2021, according to the Hartford Courant and GameTimeCT. The vote was reportedly 9-1 in favor of moving the football season to spring, meaning the CIAC’s Board of Control will have to make a decision based on that recommendation.
“We're following the process that we laid out,” CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini told The Herald. “The plan was laid out July 31 and we talked about our leagues getting together to look at regions, and following that, we talked about our sports committees getting together with each specific sport to have further discussion, and that's the process that we're in right now. All of our sports committees are meeting this week, and from those sports committees, any further recommendations would be sent to the board of control and would be considered.”
The CIAC’s latest plan, released last month, delayed the start of all fall sports, including football, to Sept. 24. The football season was reduced to six regular season games and a maximum of two postseason games, with all competition being regionalized to limit travel. Football teams have been practicing since July in outdoor workouts and small cohorts, and those cohorts are set to increase to 15 students on Aug. 17.
Those plans, as Lungarini stressed, were seen as fluid and subject to change giving the ever-evolving nature of covid-19 and the precautions put in place to combat its spread.
“This is an extremely fluid process,” Lungarini told The Herald when the latest plan for fall sports, which included the two-week delay to the start of the season, was released last month. “The plan could change tomorrow based on the health metrics and what is in the best interest of the health and safety of our kids and school communities. We witnessed that in March. Everything is in a constant state of evaluation. We're cautiously optimistic that we're going to be able to provide good experiences, but we have to keep in mind that we're dealing with a pandemic, and if the metrics in the state change, those opportunities will have to change as well.”
Things could be headed for a big change based on the committee’s vote, but the final say belongs to the CIAC’s Board of Control, which will be meeting to discuss all fall sports after each sports committee has met this week. Lungarini hopes talks about the football season and the recommendations brought forth to the Board of Control could be discussed soon, as football teams continue to gear up for a season that could potentially start in a month or six months.
“I don't want to put a specific timeline,” Lungarini said of when the Board of Control could meet to discuss the fate of the football season. “But I would be hopeful that by the end of the week we would certainly have an opportunity to meet and talk.”
For local teams, delaying the football season could be seen as a disappointment, but for many student-athletes that have been without high school sports since winter state championships were shut down in March, the top priority is to get back on the field, whether it will be in the chill of autumn or the warmth of spring.
“I just want us to get the opportunity to play, whenever that is,” Plainville football head coach Tim Shea said. “The kids need it. The coaches need it, and that goes for all sports.”
The particulars of a potential spring season are far from being ironed out, as official plans are still for the season to start in the fall, but if spring football were to proceed, numerous hurdles like multi-sport student-athletes choosing between normal spring sports and football, and the challenge of playing a spring season before going back to normal with a fall season in 2021 just a few short months later, but Shea thinks the latter issue can be worked around.
“Kids are pretty active and involved in sports all year long with lifting and conditioning,” Shea said. “And coaches are pretty resourceful. I believe we would figure it out and do what’s best.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org