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Not proceeding with high school football is the right call

The decision not to go ahead with 11-on-11 tackle high school football this fall in Connecticut was the right one. Unfortunately, because the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference did not reach that obvious conclusion earlier, it raised false hopes among players and parents.

And, it appears, the CIAC is giving up on the idea of fall football only because it has to, not because it wants to. The state Department of Public Health would not sign off.

“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," the CIAC stated in its release Friday.

Football is a tough game. Ball carriers are forcibly dragged to the ground. Offensive and defensive linemen engage in constant battle. The sweat and the spit fly. The collisions, the piles and the scrums for loose balls get up close and personal. Players shout and gasp deeply for air.

The threat posed by such a game when a highly contagious virus remains uncontained, and for which there is yet no vaccine, is obvious.

The National Football League will go to great expense to try to carry out a season, working to keep players as isolated as possible and the testing constant. It may work, it may not, but that effort is not affordable or practical at the high school level and the risks for these young, amateur athletes and their families is just not worth it.

The University of Connecticut had already canceled its 2020 football season. “The safety challenges created by COVID-19 place our football student-athletes at an unacceptable level of risk,” said UConn Athletic Director David Benedict at the time.

Many other college teams and conferences have done likewise. And they have resources not available at the high school level.

CIAC, in its pursuit of a fall schedule, had rejected the idea of a spring season instead. Now the idea is again being discussed. It should be. Factors as to whether it is feasible include the status of the pandemic at that time and if football can co-exist with traditional spring sports, forcing multi-sport players to make a choice.

Other fall sports will proceed — volleyball (with players wearing masks), soccer, field hockey, cross country and swimming. But officials best be prepared to reassess if outbreaks hit. Normal remains somewhere out in the future.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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