BOSTON — On Tuesday, in a conference call, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Association Board of Directors voted unanimously to push back the start of the fall high school sports season to no earlier than September 14th, due to the ongoing pandemic.
The original dates were August 21st for football non-contact practice/tryouts and August 24th for the rest of the athletic teams including field hockey, soccer, golf, volleyball and swimming. Cheerleading is not sanctioned by the MIAA.
The first games in Tewksbury were scheduled to start as early as September 8th. Now, according to the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, the two weeks of practice/tryouts will be held starting September 14th with games slated to begin on October 1st.
The MIAA's decision on Tuesday is a recommendation, as schools sill have to get approval from the state's Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) or the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) as to what sports will be safe enough to play at the high school level.
According to the Boston Herald, "The two entities have met with the Department of Public Health, epidemiologists and other high-ranking officials in Governor Charlie Baker's office to discuss the prospects of fall sports." Six members of the MIAA's COVID-19 Task Force team were also present in that meeting.
Besides Tuesday's recommendation of pushing the start date back, the MIAA Board of Directors also voted unanimously to approve the COVID-19 Task Force's recommendation that the Board meet once again three business days after the EEA and DESE publish their guidelines for K-12 fall and youth sports, which should come out in the next few weeks. From there, the Task Force will look ahead to establishing a fall sports season.
"The first is the fall season and beyond, what that would look like based on the youth and K-12 sports guidelines that are released," said Thom Holdgate in the Berkshire Eagle. Holdgate is the committee co-chairman and Duxbury athletic director. "That will allow us to look at what sports are viable based on that release and see if there has to be anything done creatively within our structure that the COVID Task Force would agree upon to bring forth as a recommendation for what the upcoming school year would look like in regard to educational athletics.”
Holdgate was then asked about whether or not they would be post-season play this fall.
"We also will arrive at a recommendation regarding post-season or tournament play for the 2020-21 school year," he said, "depending on what we come to see as part of those guidelines."
The MIAA also voted unanimously to abolish handshakes during all fall season games.
Tewksbury Memorial High School Athletic Director Ron Drouin was asked his thoughts on what transpired at the meeting.
“The meeting outcome is what I thought it would be, start delayed until September 14th, which is what the Sports Medicine Committee recommended last week,” he said. “We will wait until early August to see what DESE and EEA say and who they allow to play. From what I hear, every effort will be made to play all sports. I remain hopeful that will be the case.”
New Wilmington High School AD Mia Muzio, who is just three weeks on the job, shared similar thoughts.
“The Wilmington High School Athletic Department still remains hopeful that a fall season will be able to happen even with the proposed September 14th start date. With that said, ultimately the health, safety and well being of our student athletes, coaches and community members is paramount.
“We will continue to keep the student-athletes and community informed of new information and any changes. We thank everyone for their patience and understanding during this unprecedented time.”