Virtual meetings are a big part of the new normal. CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini estimates he is on between two or three per day.
Sometimes, he is “meeting” with school principals. Other times, it is with sports league commissioners. He is on weekly calls with Miguel Cardona, the Connecticut commissioner of education and every Friday with state athletic directors.
Thursday morning was the monthly Board of Control meeting — where final decisions are normally approved. But no decisions were made about the resumption or cancellation of the spring sports season, just more discussion in what is a great unknown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Everybody was in agreement that there are too many unknowns at this point to make a decision one way or another,” Lungarini said. “We don’t want to put a date that confines us to make a decision. Everything is on the table.”
The CIAC spring season was supposed to begin on Saturday. All scheduled scholastic games or meets through April 20 have been postponed — not canceled — to comply with Gov. Ned Lamont’s edict to close all schools through that date. That will likely extend to the end of April to comply with President Donald Trump’s edict of no social gatherings.
The spring season remains postponed indefinitely. No decisions are expected until the next Board of Control meeting on May 7.
“Through our discussion with students, they have expressed their desire for the CIAC and education decision-makers to hold off as long as possible before canceling all spring sports experiences and graduation,” Lungarini said.
Lungarini said playing sports in July is a possibility. “July might be challenging for some schools. June 13 (the last possible day to play spring sports) is not waived yet. Nothing is set in stone. We will consider one-time exceptions of any rules and regulations due to the unprecedented nature of this pandemic,” Lungarini said.
Massachusetts pushed back the start of its spring sports season to May 4, the The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association Board of Directors voted on Monday.
“In talks with our principals, talks with our athletic directors and communication with some of our superintendents as well, we are all in strong agreement we don’t need to give ourselves that constraint. We are comfortable in keeping it open-ended,” Lungarini said.
Vermont is the only New England state that has canceled the spring sports season. Other states that have done the same are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Oklahoma, Michigan, Nebraska and Virginia.
When asked if the indefinite postponement was providing false hope, Lungarini said that definitely was not the case.
“I don’t see it as false hope. I see it as responsible decision-making,” Lungarini said. “We realize how impactful this is to our kids. The really tough thing about not having graduation or any spring sports experience, not having a senior prom, that all takes away closure for the kids. As the kids prepare to move on from high school, we want to give them some type of closure.”
Lungarini noted that due to the pandemic, all coaches who would have had their five-year coaching permit expire between now and the end of the calendar year would receive a one-year extension. That also includes initial and provisional coaching certificates.
What about spring sport coaching stipends if there is no season? Coaches throughout the state have been meeting with their teams virtually on a variety of topics even without having a single organized practice.
Lungarini said the CIAC “doesn’t take positions on coach’s pay,” leaving it up to the individual school districts whether they rescind the stipends or not if there are no spring sports. But as a former high school and college assistant baseball coach and athletic director, Lungarini understands the importance of coaching.
“Those who are involved in athletics understand how strong the bond between a coach and athlete is,” Lungarini said. “Athletes are adjusting to a new normal in terms of communication and social distancing. Sometimes, coaches are as important as any adult in kids’ lives.”
This is supposed to be the final year of spring football practice. A universal start date is expected for the 2021 season.
Lungarini said spring football “has not been debated or discussed” but could be a part of that May Board of Control meeting.
“By then, we will know better where we stand in terms of school for the rest of the year,” Lungarini said. “We can expect more of a direction than a wait-and-see approach.”