It's official: CIAC releases plans for delayed fall season starting Sept. 24
The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, the state's governing body for high school athletics, released its fall sports plan Friday, delaying the start of the season until Sept. 24.
Practices in cohorts of no more than 15 begin Aug. 17 for football and Aug. 27 in other fall sports. Full team practices begin Sept. 11 with games beginning on the 24.
The CIAC plan asks individual school districts to determine whether they will allow spectators.
"The CIAC understands that playing games without fans may be appropriate for some schools but not logistically possible for others," the official release said. "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 and current CDC guidance. The CIAC supports the plans established by school districts that direct the presence of adults on campus at this time. Notwithstanding the above, permissible spectator/fan attendance will be governed by local districts' current operating plan."
Eastern Connecticut Conference officials have begun discussions about spectators, specifically whether there will be a distinction made between indoor (volleyball, swimming) and outdoor (football, soccer, field hockey, cross country) fall sports. The league and individual districts will arrive at a conclusion in the coming weeks.
There will be a maximum number of eight football games and 14 for other fall sports, culminating with a "tournament" in each sport between Nov. 2 and 15 (Oct. 31-Nov. 8) for cross country. Tournament details will be released at a later date.
Regular season schedules will be formatted regionally, but not necessarily confined to specific leagues. The ECC might have to accommodate technical schools within a regional scheduling model in all sports. Example: The Thames River football tri-operative among Grasso Tech, Norwich Tech and St. Bernard, which competes in the state technical school conference and plays most road games in excess of 50 miles away, may play a 2020 schedule among some ECC schools, adhering to the regional concept.
One immediate casualty of the abbreviated system will be the traditional Thanksgiving Day football game between neighboring state rivals Stonington and Westerly. The two schools, who have had scheduled a game on Thanksgiving every year since 1922, won't this season.
"I don't think it will happen on Thanksgiving," Stonington athletic director Bryan Morrone told the Westerly Sun. "What (the CIAC) put out today will not allow it. That doesn't mean we won't try to have some game on another day. It would have to be approved by the CIAC and the RIIL (Rhode Island Interscholastic League)."
CIAC officials will have more scheduling information next week, perhaps as early as Monday.
"Anything we get is a bonus," Fitch football coach Mike Ellis said Friday. "I saw what the kids at Waterford (Ellis is a math teacher there) went through last spring. It was difficult. We are all hoping seniors get to play their final year and get an opportunity to put something on film for the next level. As long as this is safe for kids, I think we're all excited about the opportunity."
Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the vice provost for global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania, said during Gov. Ned Lamont's daily briefing Thursday that contact sports should not be played.
"The CIAC emphasizes that this plan is fluid and in a perpetual state of evaluation," the release said. "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. ... If a student tests positive for COVID 19, the school/district must be notified immediately and local DPH must be contacted. The local DPH will direct the appropriate process."
For now, though, there is a plan for the return of sports.
"These are unprecedented times," said Stonington boys' soccer coach Paul deCastro, whose team is the state's defending Class M champion. "Other states can't do anything at all. We are very fortunate here and grateful for the opportunity."