Shortened Connecticut high school sports season unveiled

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FILE – In this Dec. 14, 2019, file photo, Newtown’s Mike Ricks (11) blocks Darien’s Sam Wilson (9) as the Newtown Nighthawks take on the Darien Blue Wave Class LL state football championship at Trumbull High School in Trumbull, Conn. The governing body of high school sports in Connecticut publicly released its plans for restarting interscholastic sports for the fall of 2020, proposing a shortened season that officials said will be “fluid” based on changing COVID-19 health metrics. (Kassi Jackson/Hartford Courant via AP, File)

HARTFORD, Conn. | The governing body of high school sports in Connecticut publicly released its plans for restarting interscholastic sports this fall, proposing a shortened season that officials said will be “fluid” based on changing COVID-19 health metrics.

The plan from CAS-CIAC, the Connecticut Association of Schools and the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, was crafted in consultation with state education officials, the Connecticut State Medical Society, various athletic and coaching organizations, school principals and others.

“Everyone involved in the development of the plan recognizes that it must remain fluid, and that it will be in a perpetual state of evaluation as COVID data and health metrics become available,” according to a statement posted on CAS-CIAC’s website.

The start of the fall sports season will be Sept. 24, the first contest date. Before that, first practices will be held in cohorts of 15 student-athletes, beginning on Aug. 27 for cross country, field hockey, soccer, swimming and volleyball and on Aug. 17 for football. Full practices won’t begin before Sept. 11.

Several weeks of pre-conditioning before the first practices will also be allowed.

The maximum number of regular season games will be limited to 12 for cross country, field hockey, soccer, swimming and volleyball and six for football. All the games will be scheduled regionally to limit transportation and to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus across the state. There will be restrictions on spectators and specific rules for certain sports, such as volleyball teams not switching sides after each set and teams not meeting in locker rooms at halftime.

The organization is also working on a “tournament experience” during the final two weeks of the fall season.

“No team will be eliminated from competition during this experience to maximize the number of games each team will be able to play through the fall season,” according to the plan.

During Gov. Ned Lamont’s coronavirus briefing with reporters on Thursday, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel from the University of Pennsylvania, an oncologist and former White House health advisor, said he didn’t think high school football or “contact sports of any type” should be played this fall.

“I understand giving up something that is a crucial part of your life,” said Emanuel, who was a swimmer in school. “But we do need to be safe and put safety number one. And I think contact sports are not good idea.”

Emanuel said professional sports leagues are trying to quarantine teams in “bubbles” to prevent the spread of COVID-19, he said that would not be practical for high school athletes, given transportation and other complications.

“I think for one year we’re probably going to have to take a miss on it,” he said.