CHESHIRE – The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference confirmed the start dates for the winter season in a press conference Thursday afternoon, but that green light came at a cost of other sports that were hoping to squeeze in a season this year.
While basketball, ice hockey, gymnastics and boys swimming will begin practices Tuesday, with games beginning no earlier than Feb. 8, high-risk sports such as wrestling and football, the latter originally scheduled for an alternative season in March, have been canceled for the academic year.
The alternative season was supposed to begin with conditioning in late February. It was meant for sports that were unable to complete more than 40 percent of their regularly scheduled seasons, with football qualifying after it was canceled completely in the fall. A non-contact season was held in the fall for most local schools, with linemen taking part in strength competitions.
“With the caveat of no high-risk sports through the end of the winter season…that means no high-risk sports through the end of March,” CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini said. “The alternative season was really a place that we were seeing the high-risk sports moved to. But we weren’t playing any sports until Jan. 19 … with no sports being played, that significantly reduces the time frame of playing that alternative season. The end of the winter season places more limitation on that. With that, the [Board of Control] did take action today to cancel that alternative season.”
The Department of Public Health issued guidance to the CIAC earlier this week that included a start date for winter regular seasons to begin Feb. 1, but the CIAC set its date back a week to give schools more time for conditioning, much like the fall season, when three weeks were given between the start of practices and the beginning of the regular season. As a result, the end of the winter season is now March 28, which the CIAC believes leaves insufficient time to get in an alternative season before spring season begins.
Lungarini also expressed concern about the 2021 football season next fall, which would have had to limit games had the sport been played this spring.
“The guidance about limiting games in the fall if you played any season in the spring came from the National Federation [of High Schools],” Lungarini said. “That was sent to the states that were considering playing football in the spring.”
With a second semester season no longer in play, football and wrestling will not take place this academic year.
The end of the winter season will immediately be followed by the beginning of spring season, which is now scheduled to start on March 29. The desire to play a full spring season was another major factor in the CIAC’s plans when it came to canceling the alternative season, which could have created conflicts for multi-sport athletes.
“The priority of the board has been to maintain a spring season as much as we can because of the kids losing their entire season last year,” Lungarini said. “The number of athletes that would have conflicts if we made that adjustment…in football, 38 percent also play a spring sport. In wrestling, 31 percent of wrestlers also play a spring sport, which would create quite a conflict.”
Wrestling was one of the first winter sports to be delayed in December of 2020, while the CIAC was putting together initial plans for the season. It will join football as a sport that has missed an entire year of high school competition due to covid-19 precautions, along with the full spring sports slate that was canceled completely in 2020.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or email@example.com