CHESHIRE – When the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference reinforced its decision to cancel 11-on-11 football earlier this month, it left open the possibility of pushing the sport to spring after initially ruling that possibility out.
That possibility was reinforced on Tuesday afternoon, when the CIAC announced plans for a “second semester alternative season,” a window that would allow sports that were unable to complete at least 40 percent of its regular season games to give it another go in the spring. This would of course include football, which was canceled entirely after the CIAC was unable to sway the Department of Public Health with its plan to decrease the potential risk of covid-19 spread in what has been deemed a high-risk sport.
For now, football is the only sport eligible for this alternate season, as all other fall sports have been cleared and are set to begin on Thursday. Should there be a spike in covid-19 cases and other fall sports seasons are cut short, those would be eligible to try again in the alternate season.
The proposed dates for the alternate season include beginning conditioning work from Feb. 22 to Feb. 26, and football would be permitted to have its first day of full pads on Feb. 27. Two scrimmages for football would be allowed, with dates for those being March 6 and either March 12 or 13, before the first games of the season would kick off on March 19. The end of the season would be April 17, which would likely give football teams four games if all goes as scheduled.
The CIAC said earlier in the month when opening the door back up for spring football that it would only happen if it didn’t interfere with the spring sports season, which was canceled completely earlier this year. Under this proposed plan, conditioning for spring sports would run from April 11 to April 22 and the season would begin on April 23. That would be a later start than normal, but to accommodate a full season, the state tournaments would be pushed back and would run from June 14 to June 27. Still, it would give multi-sport athletes playing football and a spring sport less than a week in before their new season began.
The winter season, or at least its higher-risk sports, is still up in the air given the CIAC’s stance that if high-risk outdoor sports like football are deemed unsafe for fall, it would be tough to imagine indoor sports like basketball and ice hockey being played under normal circumstances. But the CIAC detailed an alternative plan for the winter season on Tuesday, which would have conditioning begin the day after this fall season ends (Nov. 23), and the first date of contests beginning on Dec. 7, and the state tournaments running from Feb. 8 to Feb. 21, ending nearly a month earlier than a typical season.
Football has already taken on alternate forms of competition in many towns and conferences across the state, including 7-on-7 play with special lineman challenges, a format that the CCC is expected to adopt, though a finalized schedule is still in the works. Given that the CIAC’s plan is fluid, it has waived its out-of-season rules that would forbid contact between coaches and players outside of scheduled season dates, meaning coaches can still work with players through Nov. 21 during “low to moderate risk school-sponsored football activities,” such as the 7-on-7 games that began this past weekend.
Now that the CIAC has an alternate plan, the next step would be getting it approved by DPH, as the CIAC has shown that it will only move forward with plans if they are aligned with DPH recommendations. Those recommendations may not come for months, as covid-19 metrics can change quickly, especially if there is a rise in cases during the winter months.