The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s governing board meets Thursday to approve a potential Jan. 19 start for winter sports practice, but individual schools and districts still have to be ready to participate.
New Haven was one of the first cities to opt out of football, even before the CIAC couldn’t get a fall season approved by the state Department of Public Health, and indoor volleyball in the fall. Maritza Bond, the city’s director of public health, and Eric Patchkofsky, the citywide athletic director, have been working together throughout the school year to have a plan for athletics to proceed.
“Eric and I will convene to assess the local status of COVID-19 once the CIAC and DPH guidance are publicly issued,” Bond said.
Patchkofsky assumed the role of liaison with DPH to clear any city staff member to return to work after he or she received a positive test result for COVID-19, he said.
“In conjunction with Director Bond, we will look at CIAC and DPH guidance and guidelines and move forward, as long as the data on the ground says we can participate and all of the mitigation procedures are in place,” Patchkofsky said. “If New Haven were to have a significant spike, we would pause.”
Both Amistad in New Haven and Achievement First in Hartford made the decision Monday morning to cancel the winter sports season. For Amistad, it will be the third straight season without athletics.
“The decision-making process has been something consistent with our philosophy for the entire year, prioritizing the health and safety of our student-athletes,” Amistad athletic director Jay Fellows said.
Amistad’s sports not being held include both boys and girls basketball, indoor track and field and competitive cheer, the latter also not being allowed for any CIAC school due to the sport being in the high-risk category.
Fellows also said that there will be no after-school activities being held by the school, which includes clubs.
“We all wish it was a more normal season and a more normal world. We wish it was 2019 and we were on our way to Mohegan,” said Fellows, referring to Amistad’s trip to the Division III boys basketball state championship game at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville.
We were told today that Amistad high school will not be participating in winter sports this year. To my 6 seniors I wish there was something I can do or say knowing some of you will never play basketball again I’m sorry I love ya
— Amistad High School Lady Wolves (@CoachRobinson11) January 11, 2021
A message for Bridgeport superintendent Michael Testani was not returned Tuesday. Bridgeport opted out of fall football and girls volleyball in August.
The CIAC Board of Control is set to meet Thursday morning. At Tuesday night’s virtual meeting of the East Haven Board of Education, superintendent Erica Forti said she expects the board to delay the start of winter practice from Jan. 19.
East Haven principal Vincent DeNuzzo will suggest a Feb. 1 date to the Board of Control, athletic director Anthony Verderame told the board of education, and even with a Jan. 19 start, East Haven would prefer non-contact, small-cohort (or virtual for a week, Forti said) conditioning to start.
“There’s going to be a completely different response from every school district in every town,” Verderame said. “There are several athletic directors I spoke to today whose superintendents will not allow them to participate in winter sports. There are several athletic directors who will not play against red towns.
“Right now what the CIAC did was, they’re having a meeting Thursday and expect us to implement on Monday. I don’t see the feasibility of that,” he said later in the meeting. “Can we do this? Yes, we can. (Head athletic trainer and Board of Control member) Marc Aceto and myself have been preparing with the coaches. We are ready to go on the 19th. However, we don’t see the actual feasibility in that in regards to working with the health department, the board of education and the superintendent.”
The status of the indoor track season is yet to be clarified.
Two coaches, including one on the CIAC Indoor Track Committee, said they were uncertain of the status of indoor track. The CIAC’s Winter Sports Update document indicates a proposal to postpone the indoor track season.
A meeting was scheduled on Tuesday night for the CIAC Indoor Track Committee.
“The draft of the CIAC document is confusing in regards to indoor track,” Fitch coach Rich Kosta said. “We have a CIAC Indoor Track Committee tonight (Tuesday) with CIAC staff. It is my hope that I get more clarification on the status of the indoor track season. At this time I have no comment until I get some clarification from CIAC.”
Wilbur Cross indoor track coach Travis Gale is hopeful the indoor track season will go on as planned.
“I saw the word postponement for indoor track in the CIAC’s (Winter Sports Update) document,” Gale said, “I am going to wait until after they meet to talk more about it, because the DPH could overturn things as well.”
Verderame said co-ops could be an issue for some health departments or school systems; East Haven has co-op teams in boys swimming and hockey. A couple of longtime hockey co-ops are already not expected to participate this season.
“The CIAC’s proposal, while I honestly don’t agree with it, we will be abiding by it,” Verderame said, mentioning not allowing wrestling while allowing basketball. “Whatever they decide, we will bring to our health department and to the board of education.”
Michael Fornabaio and Dan Nowak contributed to this report.