The CIAC continues to move forward with its plans to conduct a winter sports season. All of the sports committees have had meetings in the last week to determine how exactly to go about it.
“Our intention is to play every sport this winter season,” said Gregg Simon, the CIAC’s associate executive director. “That doesn’t mean the situation won’t change due to rising (COVID) numbers. We don’t dictate. The disease will dictate.”
Both the boys and girls basketball committees, among others, came up with plans to help mitigate the spread of coronavirus for review by the CSMS Sports Medical Advisory Committee. Simon wouldn’t go into specifics on those plans.
When asked about basketball players wearing masks while playing, Simon said the committees did not mandate the use of them.
“The NFHS’ (National Federation of High Schools) consideration is masks can be worn by players, but they don’t mandate that,” Simon said. “Ultimately, the recommendation is up to our sports medical committee whether to accept the recommendation from the (sport) committees. That being said, masks are an option for student-athletes to wear, but it’s not something being mandated by the committees.”
Simon said members of the committees who have conducted girls volleyball games have provided feedback on how to possibly hold events indoors safely. Girls volleyball players have been wearing masks throughout the season so the sport could move from the high-risk category to the moderate-risk category to comply with the state Department of Health guidelines.
At one point, the CIAC had classified basketball as a high-risk sport, but changed it to moderate risk at last week’s CIAC Board of Control meeting to align itself with both the NFHS and state DPH.
Simon reiterated the need to “follow all DPH recommendations and CDC guidelines for playing sports in Connecticut” this winter season.
“The most vital element of anything we do is safety for our student-athletes, coaches, referees, anyone associated with the games,” Simon said. “We have to figure out ways to mitigate COVID to allow games to be played safely.”
Once the sports medical committee reviews the material and makes its own conclusions, then the Board of Control will make the final determination which sports can go forward at the next monthly meeting on Nov. 10.
If not, winter sports could move to the Second Semester Alternate Season, which would be held between February and April. Right now, just 11-on-11 contact football, canceled from the fall, is scheduled to be held during that time.
If winter sports can proceed, practice for every sport is scheduled to begin Nov. 21. The regular season is scheduled to start Dec. 7. Basketball and hockey teams can schedule up to 16 games and a maximum of 14 meets each for both wrestling and boys swimming.
Basketball teams can only schedule within their leagues. This regular-season format will be different than the current region system for the fall sports. This will allow leagues like the Connecticut Technical Conference, which has been split up all across the state for the fall season, to have games within its league.
“With what we knew, we had to keep kids in smaller regions so the only choice we had was to break up some leagues like the CTC,” Simon said. “I feel badly they didn’t have the success on the field or on the court they would have liked to. We certainly empathize and sympathize with those programs.”
Simon said the CIAC has been in touch with member schools that are involved in co-op hockey programs to see whether some will remain part of the co-op or opt out for the season. “With a large number of co-ops in the sport of hockey, that will have a large impact on the season,” Simon said.
There are other pitfalls. No invitational or multi-sport meets will be allowed this winter due to the pandemic. Simon also acknowledged limited venue availability for both hockey and track and field. That will include Yale University’s Ingalls Rink, normally the home of the state finals.
“We’ve been shut out of many of our main venues for track and hockey. Colleges are not allowing us on their campus,” Simon said. “Each individual sport committee is working very hard right now where to go for regular-season games or meets or where to hold postseason tournaments. That is all being discussed.”
While the plan is to conduct CIAC state tournaments, the idea is to keep teams close to home for at least the earlier rounds of postseason play. Simon said sub-committees are being formed for each sport to determine how those formats will play out.
Simon said the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville is “still in play” for hosting the boys and girls basketball finals in February. But he also said the CIAC has conferred with other venues about hosting those games.
“We are having discussions right now to figure out what will work best as we move along this season,” Simon said.