CIAC winter proposal would push most games to 2021

Wilton’ Lilly Byrnes is congratulated after competing in the floor exercise during the CIAC Class M Gymnastics Championship at Jonathan Law, Saturday, February 29, 2020.

Wilton’ Lilly Byrnes is congratulated after competing in the floor exercise during the CIAC Class M Gymnastics Championship at Jonathan Law, Saturday, February 29, 2020.

David G Whitham /

A proposal to hold the winter high school season is in front of the state’s governing body for interscholastic sports, but could restrict thousands of athletes from participating if the spread of COVID across the state continues.

The proposal, set to be discussed and voted on by the CIAC Board of Control Tuesday, would push most sports’ first competitions to January and urge towns in the “red zone” of COVID-19 metrics to suspend interscholastic competition.

The plan, obtained by GameTimeCT, is subject to change and still needs the approval of the BOC.

“Nothing is official until we meet tomorrow,” executive director Glenn Lungarini said. “We’re not commenting on anything until we meet tomorrow. The board will have their discussion.”

Boys and girls basketball, boys hockey and boys swimming would begin practice on Dec. 5, but the plan postpones the start of other sports until at least Jan. 1.

Basketball games and swim meets could begin as early as Dec. 17, but hockey games would wait until Jan. 11.

Those sports still have a CIAC tournament planned, though hockey’s would run into March.

After canceling tackle football in the fall, the CIAC created an alternative season in March and April for sports that did not complete a significant amount of their regular fall or winter seasons.

Conditioning for that alternative season was originally to begin Feb. 22, but winter state tournaments under the proposal would leak past that for at least basketball and boys swimming (which would run to Feb. 28) and boys hockey (to March 7).

The state Department of Public Health has deemed wrestling, competitive cheer and competitive dance higher-risk for transmitting the novel coronavirus, and Gov. Ned Lamont announced on Nov. 5 that those sports could not compete until at least Jan. 1. The CIAC plan postpones any activity in those sports at least to the new year.

“During the week of January 4, 2021, the CIAC will consult with (Connecticut State Medical Society) Sports Medicine Committee, the DPH, and Governor Lamont’s office to evaluate the status of high risk sports in CT and determine whether those sports may be played in late January or early February,” the plan says.

“If the current restrictions on high risk sports extend past the first of the year, then those sports will be moved to the CIAC second semester alternative season.”

The plan does the same with indoor track and gymnastics. For track, it says, availability of training and competition facilities is limited now. For gymnastics, “the viability of wearing a mask while performing aerial stunts and the limitations of equipment set-up and breakdown in the school setting are the primary reasons for postponement.”

Basketball and hockey players will be required to wear close-fitting face masks while competing. The plan includes mask breaks in both sports, and it suggests that players and officials bring more than one mask to replace them as needed.

Mask breaks would be given in basketball after the first stoppage of play, at or after the 4-minute mark of each period. Additionally, officials will have the discretion to call mask breaks when deemed needed. In hockey, the one-minute breaks would be given at the first stoppage of play at or after the 4-minute, 8-minute and 12-minute mark of each period.

Athletes in other sports will have to wear masks at least while not actively competing.

As with everything in this pandemic year, the plan remains fluid. Fall sports have just about made it through their seasons, which included no state tournament but, for many teams, regional playoffs. Some of those playoffs took hits or were canceled after COVID-19 rates rose.

In the winter, schools in areas coded “red” under the DPH definition (15 or more cases per 100,000 population per day) are required to check with their opponents’ administration to agree that a game should go on. But the CIAC “strongly encourages,” the plan says, that those schools suspend competition and go back to conditioning and non-contact skill work.

The plan allows basketball teams to schedule up to 16 games with a state tournament running through Feb. 28. Boys swimming tournaments could be as late as Feb. 28 as well with up to 14 regular-season meets. Hockey could play up to 14 games with a tournament ending as late as March 7.

Non-conference swimming and gymnastics meets would need to be done virtually.

The proposal leaves open the possibility for low-risk sideline cheer and dance to be held. Low-risk prohibits stunting, lifts, and tumbling in cheer and lifts and stunting in dance. Masks would be needed and formations would need to maintain six feet of distance between athletes.