As student-athletes, parents and coaches continue to protest and speak out against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s decision to cancel full-contact football this season due to covid-19, the status quo remains the same: as of now, 11-on-11 football won’t happen in Connecticut this fall, meaning the state might go nearly 21 months without high school football as we know it, as the last game was played during state championship competition back in December of last year.
“To not play for a whole year just wouldn’t feel right,” Bristol Central quarterback Victor Rosa said. “I’d love to play no matter what. My BC team, a lot of them are seniors and they all want to play. Football season for a lot of us is crucial. Some play to stay out of trouble, I play to go to college. I’ve been wanting to go my entire life. I have D-I aspirations.”
For a player like Rosa, a canceled season could have a potential impact on his college recruitment, one that has him concerned about what the CIAC’s decision, as a result of recommendations from the Department of Public Health, will do to the future of his playing career.
“There’s no other league,” Rosa said when discussing the high school football season, and the lack of competitive alternatives. “Junior year is one of the most important years for going off to college. I need to get my junior film up. Talking with my family, it’s been in the back of my mind that short or long, transferring out to a prep school is in the back of my mind so I could reclassify and get my film up.”
Could other athletes go this route that Rosa has already had to consider due to the prospect of a lost season? The cancellation of the 2020 campaign has an obvious immediate impact on student-athletes across Connecticut, who are making that known through peaceful protests on the steps of Town Hall in West Hartford, but what about the long-term effects of a fall without football? Could a large number of student-athletes that are currently fighting for the CIAC and DPH to make a change elect to make their own major changes if the CIAC’s ruling isn’t reversed?
“Oh yeah, 100 percent,” Rosa said of the possibility of kids transferring as a result of the season’s cancellation. “Even on my team alone, almost 80 percent of my starters on the team are all seniors, and there are some that wanted to go Division I or college in general. A lot of us can't afford that tuition and we need something to be able to afford it.
“Reclassifying or going to a prep school is definitely on the train of thought. One kid went to Oklahoma and another went out to Texas. A lot of kids are already making moves to do what's right for them.”
Daron Bryden, formerly an All-State quarterback at Bloomfield, moved to Oklahoma to ensure he wouldn’t lose his senior season, and others could follow. Student-athletes had already been taking the prep school route to gain another year and another chance to land with a college team prior to the coronavirus outbreak. Berlin’s Zach Hrubiec did just that earlier this year after a broken leg in Week 1 of the 2019 season derailed his senior campaign with the Redcoats. Could a lost season for everyone mean more players departing from the CIAC umbrella to play for a prep school?
“If the move is right for them, I think so,” Bristol Central head coach Jeff Papazian said. “Speaking for our program, we had 23 seniors that have been jerked around back and forth all summer. The lack of leadership from both parties involved has been the most frustrating part of this summer. Now we're here to clean it up. We'll have to clean it up now, so we'll take the lead now as coaches and take the lead for those 23 kids that are crushed right now.”
Thousands of student-athletes across the state are feeling the same crushing feeling and will continue to fight to revive the 2020 football season. Meanwhile, the CIAC said it is looking for alternatives to full-contact football, whether it be 7-on-7 competition or organized combines to ensure players are able to get college looks, even if it isn’t during game action. But will those alternatives be enough to convince kids to stay? The CIAC and its teams across the state are likely going to find out in the coming months.
“I'm not going to bash 7-on-7 football, but it does leave out linemen,” Rosa said. “It's a way to get film out for everyone else other than linemen. It's kind of similar to game film I guess, but if we can do 7-on-7 football, why can't we just play real football?
“I think the kids will just need to keep putting in the work. I'm for sure going to stay doing my work and getting prepared. I don't know if I'll use this as a year to reclassify, but I'm still going to be ready to play football, whether that will be spring, next year or now.”