If the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference were a football team, they would have been called for a few false starts last week.
At the end of what turned out to be a rollercoaster five days, the CIAC decided last Friday to put all fall sports activities on hold until the Board has a chance to hear directly from Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) representatives. Until then, parents, athletes, and coaches are all left to wonder what their upcoming fall seasons will look like … if there is a fall season at all.
The decision to suspend fall sports came little more than a day after a decision to move ahead with them had been announced. The CIAC appeared to reaffirm the original plan it had submitted at the end of July, one that called for a reduction of games, an altering of schedules, and the cancellation of certain traditional contests such as the Thanksgiving Day football game; but a plan that nonetheless advocated for all sports returning for the fall.
A wrinkle was thrown into the mix early last week when the group’s Football Committee voted 9-1 to push the football season back into 2021, but the full CIAC Board went against that recommendation, announcing that football would start as planned.
Now, everything’s on hold.
It is of course right that the CIAC listen to the DPH, which sent a letter to the CIAC last week objecting to the group’s plan and specifically targeting volleyball and football, which public health officials apparently regard as moderate- to high-risk when it comes to virus transmission. But the question is, why was it that the CIAC drafted a plan to play those sports, and others, without consulting with the DPH in the first place? According to CIAC officials, a request was made for DPH to review the CIAC proposal, but the communication came only after the Board meeting. Wouldn’t CIAC have been better served in waiting for the DPH response, if it were a bit tardy?
This continues to be one of the biggest issues plaguing Connecticut at the moment. Yes, plans must be flexible during times of great uncertainty and, if there is one thing the last five months of living with a pandemic has taught us, it’s that viruses don’t play by rules. Everyone has to be willing to adapt to new information and new realities on the ground.
But the on-the-ground realities under which the CIAC has been operating haven’t changed much in the last several weeks. If it was deemed acceptable to move forward with fall sports two weeks ago, the question begging to be asked is, what’s changed?
If all that’s changed is that the DPH has put in writing its objections to certain sports, then CIAC should have consulted closely with that group before offering any plan whatsoever.
Cheshire residents are savvy enough to know that, when it comes to COVID-19, things can and will change. But what leaders at all levels and in every institution must provide are well-reasoned plans that have the backing of all involved. People will rightly lose confidence in decisions that are made on a Wednesday and reversed on a Friday.
Whether fall sports should move forward or not is up for debate. What shouldn’t be is the right of parents and students to know what to expect in the coming weeks and months.