Ledyard athletic director Jim Buonocore was surprised when the CIAC Board of Control denied the CIAC football committee’s suggestion to move the sport to the spring last month, instead deciding to keep it in the fall.
“I was surprised to say the least. We all (on the committee) had the same thought process,” said Buonocore, also an assistant principal at Ledyard High and a member of the football committee. “We thought it was extremely valuable in how to proceed playing 11 v. 11 tackle football in the state of Connecticut.”
Now, less than a week after the CIAC Board of Control canceled the fall football season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Buonocore and Southern Connecticut Conference commissioner Al Carbone have put together a proposal for a five-week football season this spring.
The season would be held between March 16 and April 17.
“I thought it was important to put something together we thought could work, was feasible, something that had minimal impact on the winter and spring seasons as we know it,” Buonocore said. “It was not fair to impact other seasons. It carries only into a small portion of the spring season. … You aren’t playing for a divisional title or a state championship, but we are talking about suiting up with your buddies, an opportunity to play a sport you have played your entire life and may never play again.”
The SCC would have had an incomplete fall season to begin with as both the New Haven and Bridgeport schools chose not to play football due to it being in the high-risk category. Carbone said “three or four other districts (from the SCC) who we know would follow DPH (Department of Health) guidelines,” which were to not have a full-contact season, had the CIAC chosen to stay the course for the fall.
“This allows us to play football at some point in the 2020-21 academic year,” Carbone said. “You can’t expect to have a full schedule, you can’t expect to play eight games in the spring and fit them in at the mercy of other (season’s) sports. We all need to be flexible and accommodating, but we also have to be realistic.”
Buonocore and Carbone spoke shortly after the CIAC made its decision Friday morning.
According to this plan, conditioning would not begin until Feb. 22, while the winter season was nearing its conclusion. Contact practice with pads would begin Feb. 27.
Teams must have 10 days or practice before holding its first regular season game. Scrimmages can be held on March 6 or March 12 or 13.
Creating this “third” season, fitting it in between the end of the winter season and the start of the spring, which is scheduled to begin around April 3, is the toughest part.
“I certainly can’t speak for everybody, but for our schools, something like this could work,” Buonocore said. “There is flexibility. We took into consideration not imposing on winter and spring sports. We need to be very cognizant about impacting other seasons. We (the ECC) are a medium-sized league. We have multiple-sport athletes. … We wanted to get something out there quickly to our league and our athletic directors.”
Hand football coach Steve Filippone had provided a similar plan, one he detailed to Hearst Connecticut Media last Friday when the CIAC officially canceled the fall 11 on 11 football season.
Filippone’s plan included a four-game regular season beginning in mid-March and a championship game held in mid-April.
“This gives us the opportunity to use the fall, to practice and do skill development,” Carbone said. “What better way to get ready for the 11 on 11 contact season and I’m sure Steve is thinking the same thing.”
Just a couple of days after the CIAC canceled the fall season, the FCIAC coaches submitted a letter to Gov. Ned Lamont, the CIAC and the state Department of Health to reinstate the fall season. The coaches also had their own spring plan.
In an email obtained by Hearst Connecticut Media, the letter sent by the FCIAC coaches suggested an eight-game season between March 1 and April 30: six for the regular season and two for the postseason. Conditioning would be held in late February.
“We believe that by planning ahead and being flexible and fluid, this proposal gives all the student-athletes a chance to play in a meaningful season after years of preparation and hard work, while at the same time mitigating the risk of COVID transmission,” the letter stated.
The SCC-ECC plan does not have a playoff option, as Buonocore indicated.
“What is more important, playing these games 11 on 11 or worrying about a playoff?” Carbone said.
The first step for this, or any plan to be considered is for it to be approved by the football committee.
“I have gotten a lot of positive feedback with those who I have shared it with. I do think it is feasible and I do think it warrants some discussion,” Buonocore said.
A successful vote by the committee – or a successful vote on any new proposal regarding a spring football season – and then it goes before the Board of Control. Then it’s a chance for the Board to reverse its decision from last month and move at least one fall sport to the spring season.
“What other options playing the second semester are being considered?” Carbone wondered.