2020: A Look at the Twists and Turns of Local Sports
2020 was truly a year like no other, and life in the sports world was certainly no exception. Both close to home and around the world, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a huge impact on sports this year.
There were plenty of twists and turns on the Connecticut sports scene throughout the year. Many games were either delayed, postponed, or canceled, resulting in a wide variety of emotions, adjustments, and concerns. In the end, some teams won championships, while other teams never had that opportunity.
On March 9, basketball and ice hockey teams around Connecticut competed in their respective State Tournament games. The next day, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) canceled all of its remaining State Tournament games as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an instant, the careers of hundreds of high school athletes had come to an abrupt end. However, a drastic reshaping of the sports landscape at the local, collegiate, and professional levels was just beginning.
On March 10, CIAC Executive Director Glenn Lungarini announced that state competitions for boys’ basketball, girls’ basketball, boys’ ice hockey, and boys’ swimming and diving were canceled. Shortly thereafter, the Girls’ Ice Hockey State Tournament and the New England championships for gymnastics and dance were also canceled. Connecticut was the first state in the nation to cancel its winter high school sports season.
Following the CIAC’s announcement, there was wave of cancellations in both college and pro sports. The NCAA canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, along with all of its postseason tournaments and championships for the winter and spring seasons. The NBA, NHL, MLB, and MLS suspended their seasons, and the 2020 Summer Olympics were postponed to 2021.
The 2020 high school spring season was scheduled to begin on April 4, but on March 18, the CIAC announced that the start of the season was postponed. On April 23, the CIAC announced that it was canceling all postseason competitions, but kept the possibility open for some games to be played in June.
However, on May 5, the CIAC announced that the entire spring season was canceled due to COVID-19. The decision came after Governor Ned Lamont’s announcement that state schools would stay closed through the rest of the school year. The varsity sports that did not get to play this spring included baseball, softball, lacrosse, tennis, golf, outdoor track, crew, and sailing. Connecticut was the last state in the nation to cancel the spring high school sports season.
After spring sports were canceled, the American Legion baseball season was canceled for the summer across the country. However, a new league, the Connecticut Elite Baseball Association (CEBA), was formed in order to provide local ballplayers with an opportunity to take the diamond. A girls’ lacrosse league, the Dream League, was also formed this summer.
On July 31, the CIAC released a plan to play a shortened fall sports season that would start on Sept. 24 instead of the original date of Sept. 10.
On Aug. 10, the CIAC’s football committee made a vote that recommended moving the football season to the spring. Two days later, the CIAC’s Board of Control unanimously voted to continue with its plan for the fall season for all sports.
The next day, the state Department of Health (DPH) recommended to the CIAC to move football and girls’ volleyball to the spring and also recommended suspending fall sports activities until at least two weeks after the reopening of in-person instruction in schools. The CIAC responded by putting fall sports activities on hold and revising its plan to play.
On Aug. 23, the CIAC announced that all teams would be allowed to resume conditioning the following day and begin participating in non-contact skillwork on Aug. 29. Three days later, the CIAC updated its plan to play fall sports and pushed back the first scheduled date of regular-season games to Oct. 1.
On Sept, 4, the CIAC made a monumental decision when it announced that it was canceling the traditional 11-on-11 full-contact fall football season in alignment with guidelines established by the DPH. The CIAC also announced that volleyball players would have to wear masks in their matches during the season.
The decision to cancel the traditional football season became official following a CIAC Board of Control vote on Sept. 16. Several teams in the state still participated in independent leagues, while other teams competed in a 7-on-7 non-tackle format. On Sept, 29, the CIAC announced plans for an alternative season in spring 2021 for any sports that didn’t complete at least 40 percent of games during the regularly scheduled season.
Without football, the CIAC fall season got underway for several other sports on Oct. 1 and ran for the next six weeks. Teams played shortened schedules and did not participate in state tournaments or championships, although several conferences held modified versions of their annual postseason competitions. Numerous teams throughout the state had games either canceled or postponed as a result of positive COVID-19 cases in their respective high schools, and some had to drop out of their league tournaments for that same reason.
On Nov. 5, the CIAC announced that it was indefinitely postponing the start of the winter season, which has been slated to begin on Dec. 7. Then on Nov. 17, the CIAC stated that it was pushing back the first date of practices for a potential winter season to Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, effectively moving back the opening date of games to the first week of February.