For more than a month, the MIAA’s Board of Directors and Tournament Management Committee worked in tandem to try to salvage a spring season for high school sports in Massachusetts.
At the same time, members of both committees were realistic about the challenges they faced in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. With Tuesday’s announcement by Gov. Charlie Baker that school buildings across the state would be closed through the end of June, any hopes of conducting a spring sports season were dashed.
In a 20-minute virtual meeting Friday, the Board of Directors made it official, voting 16-0 to cancel the spring sports regular season and tournaments.
In a press release shortly after the conclusion of the meeting, the MIAA said: “Today’s decision by the MIAA Board of Directors was difficult, disappointing, and one that was deferred for several weeks as Association staff, Association members from the Tournament Management Committee [TMC] and the Board worked aggressively to construct optional structures to save the opportunity for our MIAA 80,000 student-athletes to enjoy a spring season.”
Following guidance from Gov. Baker, both MIAA committees twice had changed the timeline for a potential spring season. Until Tuesday’s announcement, there was hope that school buildings could reopen by May 4, and the MIAA put together a plan that would feature a shortened spring regular season followed by sectional tournaments running through June 27.
“Though we all felt that it may be a challenge to come back into the buildings, it was our obligation to have a plan in place for a regular and postseason so that players and coaches would have a structure set up if we returned,” MIAA president Jeffrey Granatino, the superintendent of Marshfield schools, said in an opening statement before the vote.
Ultimately, Granatino said, all of those best intentions became “moot” with Tuesday’s announcement.
“While the decision of the Governor to extend school closures through the end of the school year was one many of us expected, it is still disheartening when you see the impact that it has on students and staff across the commonwealth,” Granatino said in his statement.
“It’s a decision based on better ensuring the health and well-being of our students, staff and families and it was the right decision to make. At the end of the day though, it still is a tough pill to swallow for thousands of student athletes across the state who have already lost so much of their school year due to this pandemic."
Essentially, Friday’s vote made official the reality that already hit home for coaches and athletes across the state earlier this week.
“I'm very sad for the seniors and it's eating me up inside not to be able to be with all the players and enjoy the sport that we love,” East Boston baseball coach Jeff Arinella said.
St. Joseph Prep girls’ lacrosse coach Taya Latham said she had expressed to her team weeks ago her belief that a spring season would not happen.
“The toughest part is, of course, knowing that the seniors' careers have been cut short,” Latham said. “We have a great senior class, many of whom helped start the program at St. Joseph Prep four years ago. That's partly why I conveyed my thoughts about the rest of the school year to my team so early. It was important to me that they hear that from me rather than as part of a general announcement and that they know I was feeling the loss of our season deeply.”
Granatino said the Board of Directors waited until Friday to make it official to give its members — a mix of administrators and athletic directors from across the state — the opportunity to take care of academic needs at their respective schools.
“This is a once-in-a-century disaster,” Granatino said. “We are playing without a playbook, and that is scary for people that coach. But we have tried to make the best of it. All of our students have lost so much. If planning for [a possible spring season] at least kept them motivated, that was a good thing.”
With a spring season no longer possible, Duxbury athletic director Thom Holdgate asked whether teams potentially could have informal meetings or practices later this spring or summer “if things did lighten up’’ with COVID-19. The board previously had waived MIAA Rule 40, which restricted out-of-season contact and communication between coaches and athletes, for this potential spring season.
Granatino said that topic likely would be better addressed at the next Board of Directors meeting May 13. The board also likely will begin to look ahead to what preparations could be made for the fall and going forward.
At the conclusion of the meeting, MIAA executive director Bill Gaine expressed his appreciation to the Board of Directors as well as the Tournament Management Committee.
“We recognize that [and] appreciate it,” Gaine told the board. “Your colleagues and the districts you represent appreciate it as well.”
Massachusetts became the fourth New England state to cancel its entire spring sports season, joining Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Connecticut will not have a spring postseason, but its state association announced Thursday that “any potential spring sports experiences will be limited to the month of June” if school buildings are allowed to reopen. Vermont has postponed its spring season indefinitely, and will make a final decision April 30.