Chad Giulini / HK's team photographer
BARTH KECK

I had been teaching for about 10 years when I was asked to co-chair a committee that would review the daily high school schedule. A few years earlier, the school had adopted a “block schedule” of four 80-minute periods a day, but teachers and parents were expressing concerns. So I said yes, I would co-chair the committee.

My co-chair and I worked with colleagues on the committee for almost a year, surveying teachers, researching various schedules, and collecting data. With the final report written and about to be submitted, we were informed that “the timing wasn’t right to proceed.”

Gee, thanks for nothing. It was at that time I swore off as much future “committee work” as possible. What’s the point, after all?

That’s how members of the CIAC’s football committee must have felt when the CIAC Board of Control decided on Wednesday to proceed with a fall football season despite the football committee’s recommendation 48 hours prior to postpone the season until spring.

Following the decision, disappointment and resignation were apparent in the voice of committee chairman Harry Bellucci, the head coach at Hartford Public.

“We wanted to buy time,” he said. “The (football) committee felt it was the most prudent thing to do. But the Board of Control felt the metrics were safe enough for us to begin practices, so we’re going to start practice and hope for the best.”

“Hope for the best.” Not the most reassuring words when facing the still-emerging risks of playing a full-contact sport in the middle of a virus-based pandemic. But don’t blame members of the football committee – they did their job and offered a clear recommendation that put the safety of student-athletes and coaches first. 

The major factor behind CIAC’s decision to proceed with fall football was the improved COVID-19 data in Connecticut, according to Glenn Lungarini, executive director:

“The missing piece for the football committee was the information from our medical advisors. So when we took that into account today and heard directly from them, what became clear to us was that at this time there really was no change [in metrics] from July 30 until now that would suggest moving football to the spring is necessary.”

It’s nice that the CIAC consulted their own medical advisors who informed them of metrics from a two-week period regarding a virus that has been present in Connecticut for four months. What the CIAC did not consult, according to the our Christine Stuart, was medical advice from the state Department of Public Health, which was about to recommend high school sports be moved to the spring, or at least the most high-risk sports: football and volleyball.

“Sources close to Gov. Ned Lamont’s office told The Courant the CIAC – the governing body for high school sports – reached out to DPH for guidance recently, but acted before a recommendation from Lamont, DPH and state public health experts including the state epidemiologist was handed down.”

The CIAC continues to emphasize the plan is “fluid.” If enough positive cases emerge, programs could be suspended – maybe even entire seasons scrapped. Which leads to this question: Why proceed with a truncated football season of six games and no fans, per CIAC recommendation, when it all could end at a moment’s notice?

The better option – medically, logically, sanely – would be precisely what the football committee suggested: move the season to the spring.

I understand how a spring football season could prevent many student-athletes from participating in other spring sports. I ask myself what if my own son, an all-state track athlete a few years back, had to choose between soccer (his fall sport) and track? My immediate and very father-like answer would be “life is full of difficult choices and this is one of them.” But even so, there’s an alternative.

The state of Colorado has created a plan of four sports seasons. The low-risk fall sports will take place as scheduled and the period between January 1 and late June will be divided into three seasons that include every other sport. Football would take place between March 1 and May 1.

The idea is at once innovative and complicated, but it’s certainly worth consideration – especially when the entire situation surrounding coronavirus and athletics remains “fluid.”

At the time I wrote my original op-ed suggesting a spring football season, 12 states had already moved football from the fall. That was Monday. By Wednesday, two more states had moved football to spring and Vermont replaced the regular football season with a 7-on-7 passing league (touch football). Connecticut, meanwhile, doubled down on fall football.

So let’s review: A committee did the necessary legwork and made a recommendation. A governing body said “thank you very much” and rejected the recommendation. Everything will proceed as originally planned. Such is life in a bureaucracy.

Too bad the issue concerns a deadly virus that still leaves many questions unanswered.

Barth Keck is an English teacher and assistant football coach who teaches courses in journalism, media literacy, and AP English Language & Composition at Haddam-Killingworth High School.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

Barth Keck

Barth Keck is in his 30th year as an English teacher and 15th year as an assistant football coach at Haddam-Killingworth High School where he teaches courses in journalism, media literacy, and AP English Language & Composition.