After numerous delays, multiple discussions with the Department of Public Health and several attempts at aligning with DPH’s guidelines, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference officially put an end to the possibility of 11-on-11 high school football on Friday morning.
In a statement following the CIAC’s latest Board of Control meeting, which took place Thursday night, the CIAC said that while the girls volleyball season will continue on as scheduled indoors, only with players wearing masks during competition, the football season will have to be drastically modified, with full contact no longer being considered as a viable option after DPH stood pat on its recommendations regarding high-risk outdoor activities.
“DPH has made it clear that it is ‘unlikely to support higher risk activities for the fall term,” the CIAC’s statement said. “Given DPH’s position, the CIAC is obligated to provide its student-athletes, coaches, administrators and superintendents with a clear direction on football activities that aligns with DPH recommendations. Without DPH support, the CIAC cannot move forward with a full contact season, as it would place superintendents and boards of education in the impossible position of acting against the recommendation of a state agency. “As such, the CIAC Board of Control, in alignment with DPH recommendations, has determined that high risk full contact football is no longer a viable option.”
In a press conference last week, which gave the update that the CIAC would try and move forward with football as scheduled with a season starting on Oct. 1, executive director Glenn Lungarini stated that should DPH hold with its recommendation of no high-risk outdoor sports unless they could be modified, that public schools would likely have to follow that determination. Now, all schools will keep the helmets and shoulder pads in storage.
The football season as a whole will now have to undergo a major makeover, which could potentially result in 7-on-7 football, which Lungarini said was being seriously considered during last week’s press conference, though at the time, the plan was still to try and align with DPH on a plan for full 11-on-11 action.
“The CIAC will continue to collaborate with athletic directors, coaches and medical experts to provide football players with meaningful low to moderate risk fall activities.”
As the CIAC attempted to move forward with its plan for as much of a normal season as possible, DPH’s latest letter to the Board of Control showed that it would likely not change its stance on football or girls volleyball, though adding masks to the latter helped save that season, which now joins soccer, cross country, field hockey and girls swimming as fall sports that fall under the umbrella of support from DPH, and all of those sports are scheduled to start on Oct. 1, as long as Covid-19 metrics throughout the state remain encouraging after schools reopen.
“With regards to CIAC’s consideration of additional mitigation strategies for indoor girls volleyball and football that may lower their risks for person-to-person respiratory droplet spread, DPH has suggested that CIAC consider modifications to higher risk activities, and we continue to encourage such modifications,” DPH’s letter to the CIAC read. “Absent such modifications, DPH is unlikely to support higher risk activities for the fall term.”
As the CIAC continues to collaborate and search for an alternative to the football season, Friday’s decision also casts a shadow of doubt on the winter season, as well, as Lungarini stated in last week’s press conference that should some fall sports be deemed unsafe by DPH, that likely would mean the same for higher-risk winter sports, which would normally start when Covid numbers could potentially rise.
“If we were to say, looking at the metrics right now, under the best of circumstances, that we can't play indoor, moderate-risk sports now, or we can't play outdoor high-risk sports, then we're making the statement that in the winter we can't play indoor moderate-risk sports, and if we can't play outdoor high-risk sports, we certainly can't play indoor high-risk sports,” Lungarini said last week.
For now, it’s the football season that currently hangs in the balance. With the CIAC nixing the chance of moving the season to the spring last month, it appears there will be no non-contact football in the coming academic year.
“I'm surprised and disappointed,” Southington head coach Mike Drury said.I” really am. Kids throughout the state have been riding the roller coaster and doing a great job responding to it.”
Drury, like many other coaches and student-athletes in the local area, found out the news this morning when the CIAC’s statement was sent out, bringing an abrupt end to the season that the Blue Knights and other teams across the state were still practicing for, in cohorted groups of no more than 10 people.
“I was disappointed with how it came out,” Drury said. “I think it should have been the coaches telling the players first and not social media. I wish we had that opportunity. But our kids are resilient, they're going to respond and we're going to move forward with practicing and figuring out what it's going to look like.”
Student-athletes will return to football practices, but for now, they won’t be sure what they’re practicing for, only knowing that it won’t be for 11-on-11 competition.
“I was really shocked,” Bristol Central quarterback Victor Rosa said. “I was confident with states down south playing and we were doing all of these safety precautions, so I really thought we were going to have a season. Now they’re apparently not bringing spring football back, so there’s just no season.”