Mystic Valley Regional Charter School became the first Massachusetts high school program to call off its 2020 football season due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
School superintendent Alexander J. Dan said in a statement a survey conducted this spring showed only 16 parents of players who participated in the school’s football program last year felt comfortable making a commitment to varsity football for the fall season, reinforcing the administration’s decision to call off the season and task athletic director Jonathan Currier with creating a non-contact alternative for interested student-athletes.
On Thursday, coach Danny Kelly announced via Twitter that he has been relieved of his position.
The ripple effects of this decision are already being felt for programs scheduled to face Mystic Valley, such as Brighton, which was slated to travel to Malden to face the Eagles in Week 2.
“If other schools cancel, there could be a domino effect,” said Brighton coach Randolph Abraham. ”I think it’s too soon for that decision to be made and it impacts so many different schools.
“We’re hearing different things, that the school might be having budget issues on top of the COVID concerns, and if it’s a financial issue, every program is open to helping [Mystic Valley].”
Milton coach Steve Dembowski, who is also the president of the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association, confirmed that Mystic Valley is the only program in the state to make a decision prior to an announcement from Governor Charlie Baker on the status of schools this fall. Dembowski also recognized the financial obstacles small schools are facing in the effort to adjust athletic programs during an ongoing pandemic.
“With schools in the state recently merging [to form co-op teams] and closing their doors, it’s not uncommon right now for small schools to be struggling financially,” said Dembowski. “But it’s unfortunate for [Mystic Valley players] and is probably going to lead to an exodus in transfers and other issues, because they’re kind of acting on their own.”
Martha’s Vineyard was scheduled to open its season at home against Mystic Valley, and veteran coach Don Herman is unsure if he’ll be able to find a replacement opponent, given the logistics of traveling to the island. While his program still has a nine-game schedule lined up, Herman is concerned other schools could follow suit.
“My fear is they [Mystic] may be the first of several to cancel,” said Herman. citing concerns about a Week 4 matchup against St. John Paul II, a small private school in Hyannis.
“We’re going full bore ahead as if we’ll have a season,” Herman said. “But I’m sure every school district feels the same way. Even if the state says [fall sports] is a go, each district will make its own decision.”
For small schools, the implications could extend beyond this season. Prior to the pandemic, many athletic departments were struggling with the rising costs of travel, and if students are required to isolate on team buses, or not allowed to use visiting locker rooms, it could complicate matters further.
“The majority of my players are seniors, so not having a season would pretty much break us,” said Abraham. “It would be difficult to rebuild our football program. We’re a small school, so it’s not easy to suspend football for one year. If there’s no season, it will have long-lasting effects.”