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The CIAC allowed fear to prevail instead of common sense

A look at leadership from some of our nearby states suggests, once again, that Connecticut leads the league in being dumbed down. We are an asylum for the inability to react. Just overreact.

In New York, the spread of coronavirus led Gov. Andrew Cuomo to declare a state of emergency over the weekend with 142 confirmed cases as of Monday afternoon, the Albany Times Union reported Tuesday. And yet the RPI hockey team's series against Harvard in the conference tournament quarterfinals will be played — just without spectators — on RPI's campus.

In Connecticut, with merely a handful of confirmed cases, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference just canceled the rest of the high school winter state tournament schedule. Poof.

In Albany, N.Y., arena staffers at the Times Union Center are "wiping down and disinfecting handrails, door handles, concession counters and bathrooms, and hand sanitizers have been placed throughout the arena," the Times Union reported in advance of the NCAA basketball regionals March 19 and 21.

"To date, there has not been a single request for a ticket refund," said Bob Belber, who runs the arena, told the Times Union, adding that he remains in communication with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and state and local health departments.

In Connecticut, we panic ... and then spring the news on the kids in the middle of the school day.

In New Jersey, with 11 confirmed cases, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference basketball tournament will proceed as scheduled in Atlantic City, with enhanced cleaning and disinfection at the arena.

In Connecticut, we panic.

There was never a darker day in state high school sports than Tuesday. We allowed fear of the unknown to stage a coup d'état on common sense. The CIAC pulled the plug on the state tournaments using safety as a crutch, without earnestly and honestly entertaining potential solutions.

A word on CIAC: Lest we forget that the CIAC is not a nameless, faceless bureaucracy of dullards in a Cheshire-based office. The CIAC is a compilation of its member schools. And so while CIAC representatives were the face of Tuesday's decision, the CIAC's constituency contributed mightily to the morass.

Example: Dave Ruden of the Ruden Report, a website that covers Fairfield County high school sports, tweeted, "the Norwalk superintendent sent out a directive yesterday that no teams would have been allowed to participate in state tournament play going forward. McMahon-Norwalk boys' hockey would have forfeited, as well as Norwalk girls' basketball if they had won."

The Norwalk superintendent is the esteemed Dr. Steven J. Adamowski, whose fingerprints are still all over the New London school system. No further comment required there.

And so it's understandable why CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini said Tuesday that some of the state's 180 schools have expressed varying reservations about playing tournament games and attempts to proceed would not have been logistical.

Or would they just have been a challenge that required some ingenuity, organization, effort and using the inevitable esprit de corps that would stem from giving the kids a chance to play?

Example: Why couldn't we play with no fans allowed? They're doing it in New York. They did it for a Div. III basketball tournament pod at Johns Hopkins last weekend in Maryland. It's not ideal, but with all the live-streaming from various media outlets now, why not coordinate with the media and see how many games could be streamed at various sites? Why not send a team manager to a game with a video camera — if the wherewithal exists — and stream the game on Facebook Live? At least parents would get to see the kids play.

Because I'm not getting why the no-fans-allowed thing wouldn't work as a compromise. It sure beats the existing absurdity. A basketball player at NFA, for example, goes to school with 2,000 other kids every day. The CIAC's decision implies that the kid is safer amid 2,000 others every day in school than in a gym with no fans and a mere handful of other players and coaches.

Can someone explain that logic?

There is precedent for empty gyms as well. The Times Union ran a retrospective Tuesday on the 1989 North Atlantic Conference men's basketball championship game between Siena and Boston University at the Hartford Civic Center. A measles outbreak on Siena's campus led to quarantine and nine straight games with no spectators in the stands.

"You could tell by our celebration after the game, we celebrated like there were 10,000 people in that arena," one former Siena player told the newspaper.

And that's not possible in Connecticut ... why?

Heck, I just read a piece in The Atlantic about "extreme social distancing" as the only way to contain the coronavirus. "This is not an invocation to stay calm, as so many politicians around the globe are incessantly suggesting; it is, on the contrary, the case for changing our behavior in radical ways — right now," the Atlantic reported.

The story also reported how the disease "seems to increase in exponential fashion," outlining cases in China and Italy. And yet even this most fatalistic view featured the following suggestions for social distancing:

"Do you head a sports team? Play your games in front of an empty stadium. Are you organizing a conference? Postpone it until the fall. Do you run a business? Tell your employees to work from home. Are you the principal of a school or the president of a university? Move classes online before your students get sick and infect their frail relatives. Are you running a presidential campaign? Cancel all rallies right now."

You'll note it suggested an empty stadium, not full cancelation.

There are always going to be Adamowskis out there. They are free to act with their craniums fully implanted in the beachfront (heads buried in the sand). CIAC officials should be moving forward with their tournaments, wary that not every school will choose to participate and not every venue will be willing to host.

Then let's work to find that places that will instead of unilaterally canceling something surrounding states have chosen to avoid. It's called being measured. Not reactionary.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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