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The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) has announced a plan to play an alternative season in spring 2021 for any sports that don’t complete at least 40 percent of games during the regularly scheduled season. On Sept. 29, the CIAC Board of Control voted to adjust the start and end dates of the winter and spring seasons in order to accommodate the alternative season, which could potentially include 11-on-11 football and any fall or winter sport season affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CIAC’s recent announcement comes on the heels of its Sept. 3 decision to cancel the 11-on-11, full-contact fall football season in adherence with Connecticut Department of Health (DPH) guidelines. Although there is no high school football in the state this fall, the 2020 season began for soccer, field hockey, cross country, girls’ volleyball, and girls’ swimming and diving on Oct. 1, marking the first time that any CIAC-sanctioned game had been held since March 9.
In the CIAC’s new plan, the 2020-’21 winter season will begin with conditioning on Nov. 23, followed by the regular season from Dec. 7 to Feb. 5, and then the State Tournament from Feb. 8 to 21. The regular season would start around the same time that it normally would, although it would be shorter.
The second-semester alternative season, the one in which 11-on-11 contact football could be played, would begin with conditioning on Feb. 22 and then the first day of full-pads practice on Feb. 27. Scrimmages would take place between March 6 and 13 and then the “special season” would be held from March 19 to April 17, thereby allowing football teams to play a maximum of five games. There is no mention of playoff games for this season in the plan.
The 2021 spring season begins with conditioning on April 11 for student-athletes who didn’t play a sport during the alternative season. The regular season would run from April 23 to June 8, followed by the State Tournament from June 14 to 27. Under this plan, the spring season would be pushed back by about three weeks and remain close to its typical length.
The CIAC said that the dates for these seasons were suggested with the understanding that all plans to play remain fluid and are subject to the latest metrics and information regarding COVID-19.
The CIAC also waived its out-of-season rule for football coaches on a limited basis and will permit coaches to have contact with their student-athletes to conduct low- to moderate-risk school-sponsored football activities as provided by the member school or member school league through Nov. 21. The CIAC said that while it is aware of independent football teams that are forming to offer a limited number of high-school-aged players a full-contact fall league, that it does not endorse play in such leagues.
The CIAC released its original plan to play the fall season, including football, on July 31. On Aug. 10, the CIAC football committee recommended moving the football season to next spring. Two days later, the CIAC Board of Control unanimously voted to continue with its plan to play the fall season for all sports. However, the day after that, the state DPH made a recommendation to move football and volleyball—two sports that it considers higher risk regarding risk of infection—to the spring, thus prompting the CIAC to put all fall sports activities on pause.
In the last week of August, the CIAC announced that it was resuming fall sports activities by allowing teams to participate in conditioning and non-contact skillwork in small groups. As part of that announcement, the CIAC said that any fall sport that is canceled in 2020 would not be played at a later time during the 2020-’21 school year.
On Sept. 3, the DPH sent a letter to the CIAC stating that it was unlikely to support higher- risk activities for the fall term. The next day, CIAC announced that 11-on-11, full-contact football would not be played this fall in adherence with those DPH guidelines.
On Sept. 16, the CIAC Board of Control voted to finalize its decision to cancel the fall football season, but also reversed its earlier decision regarding the possibility of canceled seasons taking place during the spring, stating that it would consider allowing competition at a later time for any sport that cannot hold its regularly scheduled season, thereby setting the stage for last week’s announcement of a possible alternative season.
Thirty-one states in the U.S. including Connecticut are either modifying their fall sports seasons and/or moving certain sports to a different time of the school year. There will be no fall competition in five states and the District of Columbia. There are 14 states in which no changes have been made to the fall season.
There are currently 21 states that are modifying their football seasons. There are 15 states including Connecticut, as well as the District of the Columbia, in which no fall football will be played. Several states in the Northeast have moved their high school football seasons to spring 2021.
As of press time, there were 58,297 people in Connecticut who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, including 4,513 fatalities. Connecticut is 34th in the U.S. in the number of total cases and 14th in total deaths.
Between Sept. 26 and Oct. 2, there were 1,710 people diagnosed with COVID-19 in Connecticut, marking a weekly increase of 650 compared to 1,060 people diagnosed from Sept. 19 through 25.