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CIAC sticks with plan to hold a condensed fall season

The phone calls and texts were flying Wednesday immediately after the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference announced that it will proceed with its original plan to hold a condensed, regionalized high school fall sports season beginning Sept. 24.

"I talked to our coaches as soon as the information came out," Montville athletic director Marc Romano said. "They're excited, relieved and looking forward to getting things going. We've basically been off since March 13, so to get some sense of normalcy for these kids ... and also the coaches ... is something we're looking forward to."

The CIAC Board of Control, after listening to reports and recommendations from all its fall sports committees, voted to stay the course and play a limited fall schedule as the state continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

There were reports the CIAC was going to opt for a popular national model and move all of its sports to 2021, especially after the football committee, which includes Ledyard athletic director Jim Buonocore and Montville head coach Tanner Grove, voted to recommend its season be moved to next spring.

But sources told The Day that at least four other fall sports committees — soccer (boys and girls), field hockey, volleyball and swimming — told the Board of Control they were prepared and wanted to proceed with the plan to compete this fall, likely swaying the CIAC's decision.

"With the information we were presented," Buonocore said, "it was clear to the entire (football) committee that it was in our best interest to recommend moving our season to the spring of 2021 to at least increase the chance that the season would not only start, but finish. We felt that was the best option.

"Clearly, the Board of Control had other thoughts. I totally respect their decision. I'm excited for our kids to move forward and have clarity for all of our sports. I'm happy all of our student-athletes are going to get a chance to compete. We're certainly prepared, not only as a school but as a league."

Added Lyman Memorial athletic director Scott Elliott, who is a member of the soccer committe, "There's nothing that's going to make me a happier AD than attending school on a daily basis and watching our athletes compete. Nobody gets into this job to do all the paperwork. It's about providing opportunities for our athletes, making sure they have the best facilities, the best opportunities for competition, the best coaches. To be able to offer up that opportunity, that's positive.

"Just that uncertainty, that's on my mind an awful lot. ... We're going to have to roll with the punches."

Eastern Connecticut Conference commissioner Gary Makowicki said Wednesday his league has already prepared and accepted the regionalized schedule.

A pair of football cooperative programs — Thames River and Quinebaug Valley — will replace Capital Prep and CREC just for this fall (those schools will play in the Hartford area), while Parish Hill of Chaplin and four technical schools in eastern Connecticut — Ellis, Grasso, Norwich and Windham — will take part in other sports.

"A lot of our schools have great relationships with the tech schools," Makowicki said. "When all of the conferences met with the CIAC and asked if the ECC could take these four or five schools we said, 'of course.' The schedule worked out fine."

Makowicki added there are no present plans for a postseason, but that could change.

"We took whatever games we could get into six weeks to put together a regular-season schedule," he said. "If things continue to get better and we can extend the season, we can put something together quickly."

Makowicki also confirmed ECC schools voted unanimously to begin the season without fans.

"Our goal is to get up and running ... and keep it running," he said. "If things get better maybe we can allow fans back."

Executive director Glenn Lungarini, in a video recording released on the CIAC website, said, "The CIAC Board of Control elected at this time to move forward with the fall sports plan as presented on July 30. At this time, we feel that the health metrics within Connecticut have not changed.

"We remain fluid, but at this time, based on the information that we have, we still feel it's appropriate to move forward as planned."

The CIAC's plan features six regular-season games in football and 12 in all other fall sports, culminating with a "tournament" in each sport between Nov. 2 and 15 that would allow up to a maxium of two more events per sport.

Practices in cohorts of no more than 15 athletes begin on Monday for football and Thursday, Aug. 27 in other fall sports. Full team practices begin Sept. 11 with games starting on Sept. 24.


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