Updated story at 5:45 p.m.
While announcing plans on Tuesday for an “alternative season” in the spring for sports that lose most of their seasons to the COVID-19 pandemic, including 11-on-11 football or any other fall or winter sport, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference came out against independent football and urged schools not to let coaches take part.
The announcement says football coaches can still work with their players through Nov. 21 on school-sponsored activities, such as the 7-on-7 competitions that several leagues have put in place. It emphasizes “school-sponsored,” which may keep many coaches from being involved in any independent tackle football.
“The CIAC is aware of independent football teams that are forming to offer a limited number of high school aged players a full contact fall league. The CIAC does not endorse play in such in leagues,” the plan says.
St. Joseph football coach Joe Della Vecchia said he was told differently two weeks ago about whether coaches would be allowed to work with outside teams this fall. He didn’t think the spring plan would put an end to independent 11-on-11 football, either.
“It’s an absolute mockery of the game of football,” Della Vecchia said. “It’s a fake meaningful experience for these players, in my mind. We could be into a (full fall) season by now. ”
The announcement provides for competition “in the second semester for sports that do not complete at least 40% of games during their regularly scheduled season.”
That’s most prominently football, which already lost its fall season, but could include other sports.
The state Department of Public Health declined to give the CIAC a recommendation to play tackle football this fall, and Gov. Ned Lamont urged the CIAC to aim for a spring season when a vaccine and other treatments for COVID-19 may be available. The CIAC held that the state’s situation might be no better in the spring than now.
Other fall sports are preparing to begin contests on Thursday. The CIAC has said it will follow school-opening metrics that could force those sports to stop playing or even stop distanced, small-group conditioning, depending on how the state fares during the pandemic.
DPH guidance on Friday suggested not holding any practices or games at any level this fall or winter in five activities deemed higher-risk for transmitting the novel coronavirus: full-contact football, wrestling, boys lacrosse, competitive cheer and dance. Moderate-risk indoor sports like hockey, basketball, gymnastics and volleyball got a yellow-light go-ahead “if appropriate modifications are feasible.”
As usual, the CIAC said that “all plans remain fluid.”
The CIAC plan included legal guidance it obtained about potential liability if schools independently allowed 11-on-11 competition or allowed players to use its equipment in independent games.
Meriden’s Board of Education voted Tuesday night at a special meeting to allow its high schools’ football players to use school equipment and facilities.
Tuesday’s CIAC plan — pandemic permitting — includes a slightly earlier season for winter sports, with games beginning Dec. 7 and a state tournament ending Feb. 21. That second-semester alternative season begins play March 19 and runs through April 17. The true spring season has games starting April 23 and a state tournament ending June 27.
The 2021 spring season was originally set to see its first games on April 3. Conditioning will start on April 11 now instead of March 20. Winter sports for 2020-21 were to begin practice on Nov. 30 or Dec. 3, two weeks before their first games. They’ll now begin conditioning Nov. 23.
In its initial resistance to a second-semester season for canceled fall sports, the CIAC had said it wanted to preserve a chance for a full spring season. The CIAC suspended play in all sports on March 10, with several winter tournaments ongoing and spring sports never began before they were canceled.
It’s still to be announced what all these seasons will look like. Fall sports are playing regionalized schedules, shorter than those in normal years.
The transitions between seasons could be sharp for some players in contact sports. Darien boys lacrosse coach Jeff Brameier wondered if some athletes who play both football and lacrosse might skip one or the other. On the other hand, he pointed out, if every sport or even most sports go off as planned, many athletes could have a two-month gap between winter and spring sports, with no girls sports going on.
“Football players, you’re asking them to go from one major contact sport into another without really preparing. They’re probably banged up,” said Brameier, who used to coach the Blue Wave football team. “A kid finishes his last game (April 17), and now he’s suiting up to play lacrosse (April 23). It’s not fair.
“I’ve seen it happen in football, pushing the extra week, championship week, into mid-December. It affects hockey, basketball players. A number of lacrosse players play three sports. They’re playing a football championship and then two days later they’re playing basketball or hockey. That can’t be healthy.”
More or less, Tuesday’s plan follows ideas that have been floated for a “spring football” season since the CIAC first canceled the sport’s fall season on Sept. 4. Including other sports in that mix was a more recent revelation.
“I love it. We’re looking for any opportunity to get out there and play a sport,” Brookfield football coach Bryan Muller said. “This is the only chance some kids will have to play organized football ever again. … I couldn’t be happier for this group of seniors.”
CIAC Potential Alternative 2020-2021 Winter Season
- Conditioning – November 23 – December 5
- First date of winter contests – December 7
- Last date to count toward CIAC State Tournament – February 5
- CIAC State Tournament – February 8 – February 21
CIAC 2021 Second Semester Alternative Season
- Conditioning — February 22 –February 26
- First day of Full Pads (Football only) — February 27
- Scrimmage Dates—March 6 and March 12 or 13
- First date of special season contests – March 19
- Last date of special season contests – April 17
CIAC 2021 Spring Sports Season
- Conditioning – April 11 – April 22 (for student-athletes not playing a sport in the special season)
- First date of spring contests – April 23
- Last date to count toward CIAC State Tournament – June 8
- CIAC State Tournament – June 14 – June 27