Spring: When a young man's thoughts turn to ... football
In the spring, a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of football.
Uh, no. That's not quite right. His fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. Yes. Love. But then, when Tennyson wrote those words in "Locksley Hall," there was no pandemic, no protests at the Capitol over the inalienable right to play football and no aspiring scientists with a Twitter account to support their findings.
Hence, I have some news for you. There may be high school football this fall. But there's really not going to be high school football this fall. The Confab of Capt. Queegs — otherwise known as the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference — may thumb its nose at public health officials and bequeath football to the proletariat in the coming days. But unless the preponderance of superintendents across the state completely reverse course, most schools will not participate.
How do I know that? Media outlets throughout the state have quoted a cross section of superintendents in recent days saying they would follow Department of Public Health guidelines, regardless of what the CIAC ordains. I spoke to four superintendents here in our corner of the world last week and they spoke accordingly. DPH, not CIAC guidelines.
The DPH as well as Gov. Ned Lamont and his team of health officials do not (and will not) support football in the fall, preferring it move to 2021. No superintendent will cross that line for something as extraneous as a sport in a pandemic. Put it this way: The hill you pick to die on as a school administrator isn't going to be cluttered with pylons and yard-markers.
That means the best and only chance for football during the school year comes in the spring.
Happily, some true high school sports leadership in Connecticut — Ledyard High assistant principal/athletic director Jim Buonocore and Southern Connecticut Conference commissioner Al Carbone — have fashioned a one-month spring football proposal during which games would be played March 16-April 17.
Keep in mind that Buonocore, who is a member of the CIAC football committee, voted with his brethren last month to move football to the spring. The almighty CIAC Board of Control, whose dictatorial powers may soon be rendered as toothless as they are farcical, ignored the committee's wishes and outlawed spring football for reasons only known to the inner circle.
What the Board of Control doesn't understand is this: The same superintendents who opt out of fall football can opt in for spring football without the CIAC's permission for anything. That means spring football can happen regardless of whether the CIAC sanctions it.
A season that ends April 17 would whisper into the spring season, if COVID-19 doesn't alter the calendar. It's possible the CIAC would prohibit football players from participating in a sanctioned spring sport. But then, how could an outfit that proclaims to act in kids' best interests act so vindictively in a pandemic?
We'll be watching that one.
The Carbone/Buonocore plan, first reported by GameTime CT.com, would begin conditioning Feb. 22 with the abbreviated winter season about to end. Contact practice with pads would begin Feb. 27.
"I certainly can't speak for everybody, but for our schools, something like this could work," Buonocore said. "There is flexibility. We took into consideration not imposing on winter and spring sports. We need to be very cognizant about impacting other seasons. We (the ECC) are a medium-sized league. We have multiple-sport athletes. ... We wanted to get something out there quickly to our league and our athletic directors."
This would be the time to ask the CIAC to reconsider its stance on spring football. Of course, CIAC should reconsider its stance on ignoring the governor's wishes and DPH's recommendations, too. Sadly, I fear that barn door has opened and the stallion is already down the street, galloping like Seattle Slew.
Aggrieved parents and their kids may want to re-channel their moral outrage and instead support this one-time only plan for spring football. It allows science — that old thing — five months to catch up with the virus and gives all of us more hope for a safer version of Friday Night Lights.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro
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