CIAC pushes back start of winter sports until Jan. 19

CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini speaks to parents and athletes at the CIAC offices in Cheshire on Aug. 20.

CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini speaks to parents and athletes at the CIAC offices in Cheshire on Aug. 20.

Pete Paguaga / Hearst Connecticut Media

The CIAC Board of Control has pushed back the start of the winter sports season until Jan. 19, due to rising COVID numbers across the state.

CIAC Executive Director Glenn Lungarini said last Tuesday morning’s discussion with the Board centered around a number of schools having already moved to distance learning and other districts considering the move to stay out until after the New Year.

Lungarini said a number of districts had mentioned Jan. 19 as a potential return date to in-school learning.

“The medical professionals we’re speaking with and the epidemiologists we’ve had the opportunity to speak with I think are right in line with what the DPH (State Department of Health) shares, that in the tri-state area, we can expect (COVID) numbers to increase over the next couple of months,” Lungarini said.

“Hopefully, after the first of the year and in mid-January, we may see that start to go down a little bit and then we can get back to play.”

A proposal obtained by Hearst Connecticut Media on Monday had suggested that boys basketball, girls basketball, boys hockey, and boys swimming would begin practice on Dec. 5, moved back from the original start date of Nov. 21. Games for both boys and girls basketball and meets for boys swimming were to have started on Dec. 17.

The CIAC’s proposal had games for hockey beginning on Jan. 11 and competition for both indoor track and gymnastics not starting until January, too.

Now, only off-season conditioning can be held until Jan. 19. Teams are prohibited from practicing until then. Games can begin only after 10 days of practices are held.

Wrestling, competitive cheer and dance are in the high-risk category and could not be held until 2021 at the earliest, as determined by Gov. Ned Lamont and the state DPH.

Lungarini said that the CIAC had surveyed principals and administrators from its member schools about continuing with athletics if schools moved to full distance learning due to staffing issues. Of the between 95 and 100 responses received, the results, according to Lungarini were as follows:

Approximately 44.2 percent said they would continue to practice and play games while learning remotely; 14.7 percent would just practice, but not hold any games; and 41.1 percent would not do either while away from the classroom.

“From the CIAC interscholastic perspective as an education-based experience, we need to look at in-person learning and the impact rising numbers have had, on our schools staying in session,” Lungarini said.

“The outlook isn’t great over the next couple of months,” Lungarini said about rising COVID-19 numbers. “So when you put all of those factors together, we want our kids to be in the classroom for instruction as much as possible and we want our communities to be safe. The board felt this was a decision that gave clear direction and also kept the safety of our school communities at the forefront.”

Lungarini said about 31,000 events between practices and games were held this fall. Data the CIAC collected showed only seven positive cases were linked back to CIAC events.

The next step for the CIAC is how a January start and a possible later finish than late February will impact the start of sports being held in the Second Semester Alternate Season. Right now, that is just 11-on-11 football, which is scheduled to begin practice in February and hold games into April.

Seven-on-seven football was held this fall while independent leagues started up as well.

“We have to look at what the end dates and the tournament dates (for the winter sports), will be,” said Lungarini, who said the CIAC will continue to stay in touch with the state DPH and the governor’s office over the next couple of months if anything changes due to the pandemic.