BREAKING NEWS, Friday, Sept. 4–This morning, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference announced it would no longer move forward on a full-contact football season for its high school member teams. It will, however, allow indoor volleyball to proceed, with teams making modifications.
The announcement follows on-going discussions between CIAC and the CT Department of Public Health over what would constitute safe return to play practices for high school student athletes.
CIAC’s Board of Control had requested clarification from the DPH about what health officials required. According to a press release put out on the CIAC website on Friday morning, the DPH sent a letter yesterday to CIAC drawing a line in the sand.
“With regard to CIAC’s consideration of additional mitigation strategies for indoor girls’ volleyball and football that may lower their risks for person-to-person respiratory droplet spread, DPH has suggested that CIAC consider modifications to higher risk activities, and we continue to encourage such modifications. Absent such modifications, DPH is unlikely to support higher-risk activities for the Fall term. We would also recommend that CIAC consult with your sports medicine committee before implementing significant changes to how high school sports are played in our state so that any potential unintended consequences of those changes (including increased risk of injury) can be fully vetted prior to implementation.”
CIAC said it did so for volleyball and, with support of its medical experts, believes that players wearing masks mitigates the risk expressed by DPH and provides a safe indoor environment for athletes.
“As such, with the modification of players wearing masks indoors, the CIAC has aligned volleyball with DPH’s previous support of full team practice and game schedules for soccer, field hockey, cross country, and swimming,” the release states.
However, the same can’t be said for football. Despite CIAC providing what it said were “updated statements from the [National Federation of State High School] that reflect its position on 11 v 11 football and the success of other states that are currently playing full-contact football,” as well as a willingness to collect data and evaluate the situation after three- to four weeks, the sports organization “feels it has exhausted all possible scenarios in seeking DPH support for a full-contact football experience this fall.”
Noting the “DPH has made it clear that it is ‘unlikely to support higher-risk activities for the Fall term,’ CIAC says it cannot move forward with a full-contact season without that support, “as it would place superintendents and boards of education in the impossible position of acting against the recommendation of a state agency.”
As a result, CIAC’s Board of Control has decided that “high-risk, full-contact football is no longer a viable option.”
The announcement says that CIAC will work with school district athletic directors, coaches, and medical experts to figure out an alternative plan for football players “with meaningful low to moderate risk fall activities.”
The announcement comes on the heels of Wilton’s Board of Education meeting last night, during which Superintendent Kevin Smith said the district’s individual Return to Play plan had been approved just that day by Wilton Health Director Barry Bogle.
GOOD Morning Wilton has reached out to Smith as well as to WHS Athletic Director Chris McDougal, WHS Football Coach EJ Dinunzio, and Wilton Warrior Gridiron Club President Ryan Masterson for comment, and will update the story as soon as possible.
Coach Dinunzio said: “My thoughts are really only in regards to my players. The constant back and forth that they have had to deal with has been very difficult on them. I literally just sent them the new cohort groups and the times that we would be practicing when I received the news that the CIAC had canceled 11-on-11 football. It was different for baseball and lacrosse in that even though their high school season was canceled they still were able to play with private and club teams. Football players have one shot at a season. They have no other avenues to play. I guess the hardest question I had to answer was from one of my captains, who asked, ‘Why am I able to watch high school football games across the entire country but in a state that seems to have very good metrics when it comes to the virus we are not able to play?’ My response is one that I have given way too often to my players this year. ‘I can’t give you a good answer.’”
Masterson emailed this comment: “The Wilton Warrior Gridiron Club is very disappointed in the outcome of the CIAC/DPH discussions and that it’s going to be incredibly hard for especially our seniors, who have to watch over 25 states play high school football, along with college football, the NFL. While we are very happy that the other sports are being allowed to play, including the addition of volleyball, it only rubs salt in the wounds that they are the only sport not being allowed to play. Even if there is some form of 7 on 7, we are not satisfied, as it largely precludes an important part of our team, our lineman, from participating.”
Athletic Director Chris McDougal told GMW: “I am very upset and feel horrible for our football team. I know for a fact the CIAC has worked very hard on working with the DPH to come to some common ground. Unfortunately, that just hasn’t happened. I will continue to be optimistic as will the entire Wilton Athletic Family. We all stand behind each other, and when one of us goes down we will all be there to pick them up.”
This is a developing story…