The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference postponed the start of its spring season indefinitely Wednesday due to concerns over the spread of coronavirus. The spring season was scheduled to begin on April 4.
“No teams should be practicing at this time,” CIAC Executive Director Glenn Lungarini said. “We are not setting any sort of date of return to play or a date to cancel the (spring) season. We are open to all possibilities.”
The CIAC held a conference call with approximately 67 people, including legislators, school superintendents, principals, athletic directors and the state’s league sports commissioners on Wednesday morning about attempting to have a spring sports season. The CIAC followed up with a meeting with its Board of Control before making its decision public.
“We want students to be hopeful we will have some sort of spring experience for our student-athletes, but that should not be received as an invitation to begin practices,” Lungarini said in a video distributed by the CIAC.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended on Sunday that gatherings of over 50 people should not be held for two months. That would mean mid-May. That recommendation did not include schools.
No state schools are scheduled to come back until after March 31 at the earliest. Lungarini noted several times that a spring season is dependent upon schools being back in session. Practices for spring sports were originally scheduled to begin Saturday.
Lungarini encouraged the use of social distancing “to prevent spread of this (coronavirus). Returning to our schools and our fields of play ultimately is the goal for everyone here and get back to a sense of normal as quickly as possible.”
The CIAC canceled the remainder of the winter sports tournaments on March 10, ahead of the curve that saw the remainder of the collegiate winter tournaments, including the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, be canceled, as well as the remainder of most collegiate spring seasons.
Lungarini said no discussions have been held to waive the minimum of 10 practices before beginning a season, nor extending the season beyond June 13, the scheduled date for the CIAC’s state finals. Any changes or extension would need to be approved by the CIAC Board of Control.
“We would at this point not rule anything out, We would have to examine what the potential of that (season extension) would be,” Lungarini said. “The majority of student-athletes also play in outside organizations (during the summer). We haven’t dug into the specifics of that.”
Current South-West Conference commissioner Dave Johnson can provide a unique perspective. He is the former longtime athletic director and coach at Bunnell in Stratford and he had his second — and final — season as CIAC girls basketball tournament director ended in the quarterfinals.
Johnson is retiring in May. His replacement as SWC commissioner is yet to be determined. Joe Canzanella, the former New Haven citywide athletic director, will replace him as the CIAC girls basketball tournament director.
“This is a difficult time for everybody, especially those in leadership roles making difficult decisions,” said Johnson, who was on Wednesday’s call. “We are all passionate people about sports at any level and they have all been devastatingly impacted. I’ve been thru and dealt with hurricanes, snowstorms, microbursts and natural disasters, but nothing like this.”
Johnson is confident the proper decisions will be made.
“Nobody knows what that is going to be at this point. It’s too early,” Johnson said. “If something can be salvaged with the spring season, we need to be prepared to do that.”
SCC commissioner Al Carbone said it is too early to determine how to reduce the SCC schedules by sport. He stands by the idea of reducing schedules and eliminating the league tournaments if and when need be.
“The most important thing is we want to keep up the social distancing from one another. This message needs to be taken seriously. Everyone is in this together. We have to do our part if we want to have spring sports,” Carbone said.
Lungarini said there could be another meeting “in the next week or so” to update where schools stand at that point.
“Let’s get through the next two weeks and see where we are,” Carbone said.