CIAC Allows Fall Sports to Restart Conditioning, But Competing Still Up in the Air

Late Sunday evening, Aug. 23, 2020, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) released an update on its website on the status of fall high school sports moving forward. The question of whether fall sports’ athletes would be able to participate in team conditioning activities as well as compete against other schools was up in the air after CIAC and the CT Department of Public Health (DPH) had disagreed over what should be allowed in order to ensure safe play and limit the risk of spreading COVID-19.

On Aug. 13, one day after CIAC issued guidelines that allowed practices to resume and created a schedule for limited competition, the CT DPH issued conflicting recommendations that football and indoor volleyball should be postponed until spring.

CIAC paused fall sports activities, which had started July 6, until representatives from both organizations met last Thursday to discuss their positions. The CIAC Board of Control met again over the weekend, and Sunday evening voted to restart conditioning for all fall sports, effective Monday, Aug. 24.

In addition, CIAC will permit schools to begin non-contact, sport-specific skill work on Saturday, Aug. 29. According to the CIAC statement, “Both conditioning and skill work are to take part in small cohorts in adherence with guidance from the National Federation of State High School Associations and the DPH. Conducting conditioning and sport-specific skill work as non-contact and in small cohorts is classified as low risk regardless of the sport.”

The Sunday statement did not mention any sports specifically, but it did note that any sport that is eventually canceled won’t be postponed to a later time during the 2020-2021 school year.

The announcement also said that CIAC will work this week to “finalize the timeline of full team activities and contest play. As it has done through this entire process, the board will continue to monitor the situation and the plan will remain fluid.”

DPH Still Encourages “Modifications”

Well after midnight, the sports blog “The Ruden Report” published new information, that the DPH was suggesting modifications to girls’ volleyball and football. Writer Dave Ruden reported that DPH acting commissioner Diedre S. Gifford sent a letter to CIAC expressing concerns.

“’DPH encourages CIAC to work with their coaches, athletic directors, and board members to consider modifications to both girls’ volleyball and football that would allow them to be played consistent with the standards that define either “lower risk” or outdoor “moderate risk” sports as categorized by the National Federation of State High School Associations,’ the letter read.”

According to Ruden, DPH outlined changes that would allow the sports to be considered ‘moderate risk,’ including “playing 7×7 football, without tackling or line play, or moving volleyball outdoors.”

Ruden further quoted the letter, “’For all the reasons we have discussed with CIAC previously, DPH does not recommend that full contact high school football or indoor girls’ volleyball be played during the upcoming fall season.'”

Ruden also noted that the DPH “strongly recommended” the CIAC not implement any changes before running them before its own sports medicine committee.