By Matt Noonan
At first, the debate was about the colleges: will we actually see a college football season this fall?
That question is still being debated, especially here in Massachusetts with two local teams – Boston College and the University of Massachusetts – planning to play games this fall, despite the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
But while we anxiously await to see if either team or any college does play football this fall, the attention is slowly shifting to both local and national high school programs that seem eager, hopeful – and dare I say optimistic? – for a season to actually occur.
Here in New England, each state’s organization seems to have plans in place for their student-athletes to return to the playing field, pending it is safe to do so, of course. And if teams are able to return to the gridiron then that would open the door for the possibility of some games to be played. But don’t expect a lot of games to occur this fall – maybe we see one or two or possibly four?
And pending how many games are played, then comes the next question: can we actually have a postseason?
My answer: I doubt it.
The thought of high school football or any sport being played during a pandemic just seems crazy unless you are a professional league. And it also doesn’t seem safe, either.
This topic was discussed on today’s Noontime Sports Podcast (listen to the show on Apple Podcast and Spotify) with Shawn McFarland of the Hartford Courant. I highly recommend you listen, as well as subscribe to our show, too.
Shawn provided some great insight into if and how high school sports could be played, specifically in Connecticut, which has a much lower transmission rate than we do here in Massachusetts. But as Shawn and I both know, and so does the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC), the situation is fluid and the virus could derail plans for not just high school football games and practices, but also the start of the upcoming school year.
I know so many of our fans and friends would like to see high school football games played this fall, but I don’t think it is feasible. And I certainly don’t think it is safe.
While you may think I am being too much of a worrywart or cautious (in this post), I believe our focus should be on keeping everyone safe, including teachers, principals, coaches, and yes, athletic directors, too.
I also believe it is not possible to play high school sports, especially if students are not in the classroom. No one seems to know if and how a student could play a sport if their school year begins remotely – does anyone know? And if sports are allowed to occur in say mid-to-late September, then we should also allow other extracurricular activities, too, such as jazz band, choir, and theatre.
We know these are unprecedented times and everyone is searching for some sense of normalcy, but risking the lives of not just our student-athletes, coaches, officials, but also community members, families, and friends doesn’t seem worth it.
High school sports – yes, an essential part of each community – will return one day, but for now, I believe it is best to stay on the sidelines for a few more months and wait until it is truly safe to play games again.