Best on the Shoreline!
It's time to nominate your favorites for the 2021 Best on the Shoreline Awards!
Eric Araujo and his colleagues on the East Haven football squad will have to wait to begin organized team activities, following the CIAC’s decision to suspend all activities related to fall sports until Monday, Aug. 24, based on a recommendation from the state’s Department of Health. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Juliet Young and her fellow members of the Guilford volleyball team are slated to play a shortened season beginning on Thursday, Sept. 24, although the chances of that happening are up in the air after a recent announcement made by the CIAC. (File photo by Susan Lambert/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Two weeks after releasing its plan to play the high school season this fall, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) announced that it is putting all fall sports activities on hold until Monday, Aug. 24, following a recommendation from the state's Department of Health (DPH) to move the football and volleyball seasons to the spring due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The CIAC's decision came on Aug. 14 and capped off a wild week that saw the organization's football committee recommend pushing football to the spring, after which the CIAC Board of Control unanimously voted to continue with its plan to play fall sports, and then reverse course and decide to suspend all activities until Aug. 24 after the DPH's recommendation.
"Based on DPH recommendations, the board took the action to pause all in-person interscholastic fall sport activity, including conditioning programs which are already underway, until Monday, Aug. 24. Coaches are encouraged to promote virtual safe contact and conditioning with their athletes during the pause, so as to not lose the conditioning gains and socialization benefits made during the summer," the CIAC said in a statement. "CIAC welcomes continued collaboration and input from experts, while emphasizing that the safety and health of students is the focus of all decisions. The importance of safely conducting interscholastic athletics remains paramount."
On July 31, the CIAC released its plan to play a shortened fall sports season, moving the start date from Thursday, Sept. 10 to Thursday, Sept. 24. Under that plan, football teams would have been allowed to begin organized team activities in groups of no more than 15 people on Aug. 17, all fall teams would have been permitted to start non-contact skillwork using that same guideline on Aug. 27, and all teams would have been allowed to have full practices beginning on Sept. 11.
All teams were also given the green light to participate in conditioning starting on Aug. 3.
On Aug. 10, the CIAC's football committee made a vote that recommended pushing the football season from this fall to next spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has already resulted in an abrupt cancellation of this year's winter season and a complete cancellation of the spring season.
Two days later, the CIAC's Board of Control, which has the final say in regards to whether any season will be played, cast a 17-0 vote to continue with the fall season as planned for all sports.
In a statement released on Aug. 12, the CIAC said that, "Based on the input from medical advisors and the continued positive COVID numbers in Connecticut while sports are being played, the board believes it is appropriate to move forward with all fall sports at this time."
However, things quickly started to go in the other direction as, the very next day, the Connecticut DPH released a letter to the CIAC that recommended moving football and girls' volleyball, which are considered higher-risk and moderate-risk sports, respectively, to the spring. The DPH also made a recommendation to suspend all fall sports activities until at least two weeks after the reopening of in-person instruction in schools.
Then on Aug. 14, the CIAC's plan to play fall sports suffered another setback when the New Haven DPH announced that it was banning all games and practices for higher-risk and moderate-risk sports based on the state's DPH recommendations. Shortly thereafter, the Bridgeport school system stated that it was postponing its football and volleyball seasons this year. That same day, the CIAC announced that instead of going ahead with its plan to play, that it would be putting all activities related to fall sports on pause until Aug. 24.
"CIAC...will continue to consult with its education partners and medical experts and review positions from state leaders in an effort to create interscholastic athletic plans that align with the educational interests of our member schools and provide the safest athletic experience for Connecticut student-athletes," the CIAC said.
The sports that are played during the fall season are football, boys' soccer, girls' soccer, field hockey, girls' volleyball, girls' cross country, boys' cross country, and girls' swimming and diving. In the categorization of sports by potential risk infection, adopted from the 2020 National Federation of State High School Association's guidance for opening up high school athletics and activities, football is considered a higher-risk sport; volleyball, soccer, and field hockey are moderate-risk sports; and swimming and cross country (with staggered starts) are considered lower-risk sports.
Fifteen states in the United States, in addition to the District of Columbia, have already moved their football seasons and some other sports into the spring of 2021. Vermont has opted to play a 7-on-7 touch football season this fall, as opposed to the usual 11-on-11 tackle format, and will also be holding volleyball matches outside. There are few states that have moved all of their fall sports to the spring, several states that are still planning to play fall sports as scheduled, and several states like Connecticut that have delayed and/or modified their fall sports seasons.