Tournament’s First Round Canceled, But It Is Actually A Good Sign
Cancellations of games have not been welcomed but, rather, accepted and served as a reminder during the last year-plus that things are not the same as they were — this all due to the impact of the coronavirus.
The South-West Conference’s announcement in early May that its tournament’s first-round games for softball and baseball, as well as girls’ and boys’ lacrosse are canceled, however, is actually a good sign that things are, in fact, as close to normal as they have been since before the virus shook things up.
That is because the first-round games were add-ons so that all teams, rather than the traditional eight for those aforementioned sports, would qualify for the conference tourney. It was an adjustment made in the fall and winter when state tournaments were not held, given the anticipation that some athletes would miss out on regular-season games due to coronavirus protocol. Indeed, some squads were in quarantine and missed contests that could not be rescheduled, so they at least had an opportunity for one postseason game.
Fast forward to this spring when Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) officials set out to have a full season with conference and state playoffs in light of all of last spring’s sports calendar getting wiped out.
Nothing was a sure thing, nor is it now for that matter, but with the regular season headed for the stretch run, it stands to reason that conference and state tournaments will take place. That said, CIAC officials reminded SWC athletic directors that the rule in which teams must complete all regular season games to qualify for the state playoffs remains in effect. So those extra days originally locked in for first-round conference games will now be available for teams to make up any previously scheduled tilts that could not be played. Instead of the conference playoffs beginning May 20 for softball and baseball, those tourneys will kick off with quarterfinal games on May 22, and lacrosse shifts from a May 18 scheduled start date to May 20.
“We are all thrilled that sports are ongoing and other than a few weather/COVID bumps, it has been a great season,” Weston Athletic Director Mark Berkowitz, one of the SWC ADs to attend an early May meeting with CIAC officials, wrote in an e-mail to The Bee.
“CIAC didn’t do anything differently than they have always done, as the rule that states that you must play all of your regular season games and cannot play league tournament games in lieu of completing your regular season has always been in effect. We just realized, when reminded of this rule that has rarely had an impact on our member schools before this year, that it would be very difficult for some of our schools to complete their season and abide by this rule if we didn’t go back to how our tournament normally runs and start the tournaments with the quarterfinal games,” Berkowitz said.
“Now that we have made this adjustment, I don’t foresee any issues for any SWC schools, although some are playing many games in a short time span to finish up their schedule,” Berkowitz added.
“Member schools must make every effort to complete their season as scheduled, including makeup games. Any effort to gain an advantage by not playing a game is unacceptable and subject to action by the CIAC Board of Control,” said Gregg Simon, former Newtown High athletic director, now Associate Executive Director of the CIAC.
The elimination of the first round for those sports does not affect any of Newtown’s teams, as all have easily qualified for conference tournament action. But it is an interesting look into how far removed from the norm things got during the past year, yet how close the sports scene is to getting completely back on track.
Berkowitz noted that this will be the first state tournament action in more than a year. Last year’s winter season state championships were cut short for some teams.
The SWC’s other sports, due to number of teams or the nature of the sport, are not impacted by the rule.