Berkshire County athletic directors get to work scheduling potential abbreviated spring season

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Berkshire County high school athletic directors are moving forward with plans for a somewhat truncated spring sports season.

On Monday, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association voted unanimously to have a shortened sports season that would begin in early May. The season would start if, and only if, schools reopened and classes were to begin.

"At this point, the chairperson of each sport," Pittsfield Public Schools athletics director Jim Abel said, "each of us, based on the parameters that are in front of us right now, each of us have kind of plotted out a format for what the schedule would look like.

"It's just a matter of plotting out dates."

The Board of Directors approved a May 4 start to the 2020 spring season with an end date either June 27 or 28 (rain date). In order to qualify for what could be postseason play, teams would have to play at least eight or as many as 12 games before any tournaments would start.

"We've agreed, for the most part, on what the format of what a potential schedule would look like," Abel said in an interview following the athletic directors' meeting. "Now, it's just a matter of plotting it down on a calendar, once the parameters become clearer to us over the next days and weeks."

So Abel will sit at his desk and plot out a possible baseball season. The same would go for the other athletic directors who are chairs of the various sports committees: Lindsey von Holtz of Mount Greylock for lacrosse, Josh King of Mount Everett for softball, Dave Racette of Drury for Tennis and Keith Thomson of Lee for track and field.

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Speaking as the AD in charge of baseball, but speculating about other sports as well, Abel said that this spring's regular season would look somewhat different than it has in years past.

"It depends on which sport. We're trying to use the human element in terms of determining competitive balance and what not," Abel said. "The biggest thing, our goal is to hopefully provide our students an opportunity to compete and to participate and to have some semblance of a season."

The last time high school teams played sectional tournaments that did not provide paths to a state crown was in the early 1980s, when budget cuts from the Proposition 2 1/2 tax limiting law forced early ending of postseason play.

The MIAA's Tournament Management Committee, meanwhile, will submit tournament structure recommendations to the Board of Directors by April 9. The Board would review those recommendations at a date to be determined.

"We're not necessarily focused on championships or tournaments, or things of that nature," the Pittsfield athletic director said. "In an ideal world, being optimistic, we at least want to give our students — especially those seniors — the opportunity to have some semblance of of a season. I think cautiously optimistic, because although our plans are well-intentioned, we are at the mercy of things that are out of our control. We're going to follow the lead of local school districts, state and national governments and [Centers for Disease Control] guidelines.

"There's a sliver of hope that we're optimistic about, but at the same time, we also understand that we sometimes have to roll with the punches sometimes on things we can't control."

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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