Fall Sports: Football, Volleyball Pushed to Spring

by | Sep 4, 2020

Raimondo will allow soccer & field hockey; EG waits for final approval

The Rhode Island Interscholastic League is adopting a four-season model for the 2020-21 school year, following Gov. Gina Raimondo’s announcement Friday there would be a fall sports season for most sports. 

The sports that will go forward this fall are Boys Cross Country, Girls Cross Country, Girls Tennis, Sideline Cheer, Boys Soccer, Girls Soccer and Field Hockey, according to Raimondo. The abbreviated season will start Sept. 21, pushed back another week to accommodate the later start of the school year. Games should start Oct. 2, with the season ending by Thanksgiving. 

“That’s our target,” said RIIL head Michael Lunney at a press conference Friday afternoon.

Football, Girls Volleyball, and Unified Volleyball are not approved for team competition this fall, but under RIIL’s four-season approach, the plan is for those teams to be able to compete in Season 3, between winter and later spring. No start date was available for Season 3 yet. 

The decision on football and volleyball mirrors what’s happening in much of the northeast. Only New Jersey and New Hampshire are going ahead with football this fall. Vermont will allow a 7-on-7 football season, which is played without blocking and tackling. Lunney said RIIL wanted Rhode Island high schools to be able to play regular football, not modified.

“Our intention is to give every kid an option to play their sport this year,” he said.

He noted that Vermont and New Hampshire both would have a harder time playing spring football since there’s snow on the ground in the northern parts of those states well into spring.

RIIL has released general COVID-19 modifications (yes, masks) but the organization is still working on sport-specific modifications, hoping to release those next week after they are reviewed by the state Department of Health.

In her press conference Friday, Gov. Raimondo said cross country and tennis will have the fewest modifications because they are non-contact. 

Late Friday, EG Supt. Alexis Meyer said she was surprised by the governor’s decision on soccer and field hockey. Earlier indications had been the only fall sports would be cross country, tennis. and cheer. It was on that basis Meyer had not posted the athletic director job vacated in early August by 10-year veteran Chris Cobain. But with boys and girls soccer and field hockey in the mix, Meyer said the athletic director job was now posted. She said Bob Downey, physical education teacher and baseball coach at the high school, had been helping out in the interim. 

Meyer said she would be wait until the Dept. of Health had ruled on RIIL’s plans before fully committing to the fall lineup. 

Lunney said decisions about when games are played depends on individual schools and what they can arrange with competitors. 

“We don’t dictate when a game is played,” he said. “That’s between the two schools involved. But weekend games were a recommendation to districts because more buses would be available.”

Raimondo said schools doing distance learning could participate in fall sports. Again, Lunney said, “Two schools have to mutually agree to play.”

He said they hadn’t issued a lot of dates beyond the next couple of weeks because COVID-19 has been unpredictable. 

“We’re going week to week.”

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