Monday’s announcement concerning the continuation of distance learning through the month of April should be interpreted as a minor victory regarding the status of Rhode Island high school spring sports.
States like Virginia have already announced that all schools will be closed for the remainder of the academic year. If that’s the benchmark for what would be the ultimate worst-case scenario, the possibility of some semblance of an interscholastic spring season in the Ocean State seems to fall in line with the state’s motto — Hope.
“We’re hopeful we can do something in May,” R.I. Interscholastic League Executive Director Tom Mezzanotte said Monday. “Obviously we have not said that spring sports have been canceled. If we hopefully return to school in May, we can make some adjustments to our spring sports schedules and at least have a reduced season and postseason tournament.”
Unlike Rhode Island’s direct neighbor to the north, Massachusetts is applying some clear-cut guidelines and parameters regarding COVID-19 and spring sports. On Monday, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s Board of Directors approved a motion that stipulates teams can play no fewer than eight games and no more than 12 to qualify for postseason.
The MIAA also laid out a timeline concerning the actual length of the season. Spring practice can begin on May 4 with games to follow on May 11. Spring tournaments are expected to conclude by June 27.
In Rhode Island’s case, Mezzanotte said there is no drop-dead date in place at this time.
“Things are changing on a daily basis. We hoped to have something in April. Now we’re hoping we have something in May, but that could change as well,” Mezzanotte said. “We have not said that if we don’t play games by a certain date, then the season is over. We have not done that. We’re continuing to adjust our plans for the spring and we’re anticipating participating in the spring, but that’s contingent on the schools being in session.”
Timeline-wise, softball was originally scheduled to open league play later this week while baseball was slated to get begin Monday. Volleyball matches and lacrosse games (boys and girls) were on the docket for each day this week.
If school buildings are re-opened in May, what will everything look like? Will everything be back to normal or will there still be restrictions?
“All of those things are yet to be thought out,” said Mezzanotte, who will be retiring from his current post on July 31. “We just have to go with the flow and prepare as best as we can.”
For the second straight Monday, state athletic administrators from all six New England states along with New York and New Jersey got together on a conference call. Mezzanotte stated the interscholastic director from Maine shared that there are some counties that have yet to report anyone who’s tested positive for the coronavirus.
“We’re all in the same status. We’re all unsure about the future, therefore we can’t make any definitive plans about the direction we’re heading in,” Mezzanotte said. “Every state is different and schools will have to adjust to that, but we’re preparing for the best.”
In terms of realignment, Mezzanotte hinted that adjustments could be forthcoming. A two-year alignment for fall sports that covers the 2020 and 2021 seasons has been drafted but still needs to be approved by the RIIL’s Principals’ Committee on Athletics. Meetings concerning alignment for winter sports have yet to be initiated.
“Is now the time to align or should we go with a one-year alignment?” said Mezzanotte. “We have some recommendations and the (Principals’ Committee) will make the final decision.”
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03