NEC Postpones Fall Sports, Playoffs

The+Blue+Devils+will+work+through+three+phases+before+they+are+allowed+to+have+full+team+practices.

Ryan Jones

The Blue Devils will work through three phases before they are allowed to have full team practices.

Ryan Jones, Managing Editor

Since 1935, only a World War had been able to stop college athletics from taking place at CCSU. Now, a new war has put a halt to sports, the United States’ ongoing battle with COVID-19.

On July 9, the Northeast conference, CCSU’s athletic conference, announced that all fall sports would be postponed indefinitely.

While football has taken the spotlight in the story of fall sports, for Central Connecticut this move also shut down men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball.

There will be no games played this fall. However, CCSU’s Interim Athletic Director Tom Pincince plans on maintaining the student athlete experience for the Blue Devils.

Student athletes on Central’s campus will work their way towards practicing as a team through phases. Currently in phase zero, all facilities are shut down while the student athletes go through screening processes by health services and get COVID-19 education.

Normally, the returning fall athletes would have gotten their testing done in the spring. For new fall athletes, this would have taken place during preseason training, which of course did not happen this summer. Because of everyone requiring screening at once, the process of getting everyone cleared is expected to take a bit longer.

Once the athletes are cleared, however, they will enter phase one. Phase one allows groups of five or fewer athletes to workout with a coach. The athletes in these “pods” will stick with the same group for two weeks.

The ensuing phase two will be the same idea as the previous, with the group number now moving up to 12 or fewer.

This final phase three will allow full team workouts and practices, however Pincince noted “I don’t think you’ll see 90 kids on the football field at one time practicing because that won’t be the right thing for us to do.”

“Once we get to those team practices, we know that everyone is safe and healthy at that point,” Pincince said. “We don’t want to jump on the field on the first day, put 50 people out there then all of the sudden if we have one positive all 50 have to go into quarantine and isolation. That’s what we’re trying to avoid.”

For Pincince, the primary concern has been the safety of CCSU’s student athletes, and he’s in no rush to get them out there if things aren’t safe.

“If teams aren’t ready to move forward, we won’t move forward,” Pincince said. “The hope is that we can get everybody out there as soon as possible, but we aren’t going to push the envelope when it comes to getting out their sooner rather than later. We are going to make sure that we follow our process and our protocol and we do everything safely.”

The budget for the athletic department is in a sort of limbo for the moment. No ticket sales for fall sports is an obvious hit but the revenue lost from games against big name schools could be more detrimental. Football was scheduled to play Toledo on September 26.

Still, the chance of a spring season leaves things up in the air. The presidents of the athletic conferences will meet in September and October to discuss the idea of schools playing in the spring.

Pincince stepped in as Interim AD in December after former AD Brian Barrio left the school. “If somebody had told me back in December when I began [as Interim AD] that this is what the first eight months would be like, theres no way I’d ever believe them,” Pincince said.

The Athletic Department has had plenty of planning done to ensure the safety of the student athletes. Pincince is quick to praise the rest of the staff when speaking about the planning that went into this year.

“It’s not just me,” Pincince said. “We have athletic training staff, sports medicine staff and our team physicians that have met weekly to talk about how we do these things safely and keep everyone as healthy as possible. We’ve had administrators who have sat down and developed protocols and procedures for practices and return to the building. Almost everyone on staff has been part of other parts of the campus safe reopening.”

The staff has used the term “adapt and adjust” to explain the situation. “Things are not normal and they are not the way they used to be,” Pincince said. “We had to adapt to that new normal and adjust how we do our jobs on a daily basis.”

For Pincince, the biggest adjustment will not be seeing the Blue Devils take the field, court or course this fall. CCSU football was scheduled to host conference opponent Wagner for their first home game September 6. Women’s soccer should have already faced UConn and volleyball should be starting their season this weekend. When those dates come and go without the games, without the fans, the reality of our new normal will set in.