Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Sitting in a holding pattern waiting for fall sports information

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There are some things we know about plans for sports this fall. Unfortunately, there are far more things we don't know.

It was Dr. Anthony Fauci who said the following: "And you've got to understand that you don't make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline."

By extension, that means we can see plans for fall sports, but the coronavirus pandemic will make the final determination if Pittsfield or Wahconah will play football or soccer, or if the University of Massachusetts gets to play any or all of the remaining 10 games on its football schedule.

The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, which oversees high school sports in the state, has been hesitant about committing to saying that there will be a fall season and when one could start. Frankly, I can't blame them.

The MIAA has historically been a "punching bag" for coaches, administrators and fans throughout the state for years. On social media, the MIAA has taken shots from folks who suggest that planning for a fall season could be a fool's errand because of the pandemic. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Certainly, the virus makes the timeline, but if you're not prepared to go when the proverbial green light goes on, then you're in a world of hurt.

The MIAA's Board of Directors voted back on July 21 to make Sept. 14 the first day of practice for a fall sports season. I have seen where the state is making plans to possibly start school on Sept. 16, which would be two days after practice starts. That should not be a problem, because in the fall sports calendar, practice usually begins a week or two before the first day of classes.

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We are waiting until Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and his administration make a final determination on the viability of sports.

When the state's Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs released the latest safety and reopening standards last Saturday, and only so-called "higher risk" sports are still on the no-fly list. Those sports include Berkshire County high school sports football, wrestling, basketball, lacrosse, ice hockey and competitive cheer.

The "moderate" risk sports include baseball and softball, sports that are in truncated summer seasons now. Other high school sports like track and field, swimming, volleyball and soccer are also in the moderate risk category. The list includes running clubs, which by extension, could mean cross country running.

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It is possible that those higher risk sports could be moved to moderate risk. That remains to be seen.

Connecticut put out a plan last week that would begin playing fall sports late September. The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference's plan would have full contact football practice starting Sept. 11 with games 13 days later.

New Hampshire has pegged Sept. 8 as the first day for its fall practice.

In New York State, the start of fall sports has been delayed until Sept. 21, and the New York State Public High School Athletic Association canceled sectional and state championships, and has already put out a "condensed" schedule for sports, which would see fall sports pushed until March 1, 2021.

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So, while we sit and wait for a decision, we also found out this past week that UMass won't be playing Auburn and its $1.9 million payday.

UMass athletic director Tweeted shortly after the SEC made its decision to play a conference-only season. Not only did UMass lose its big game, but some classic rivalries like Georgia-Georgia Tech, Clemson-South Carolina and Louisville-Kentucky will now not be played.

"Having the opportunity to play at Jordan-Hare [Stadium,] was one of the highlights of our season this year, and we are disappointed for our student-athletes who were looking forward to playing there on Nov. 14," Bamford wrote. "We are continuing to evaluate this ever-changing environment, and we will keep our fans updated as the process evolves."

Assuming the college football schedule goes off with few hitches, UMass should be one of the most attractive plus-one teams for regional ACC squads. The ACC announced that it would play a conference schedule with the possibility of one out-of-conference game. The fact that Massachusetts, the state, has been one of the better states — as of now — in keeping COVID-19 from a major return. Wouldn't that be attractive for a Pittsburgh or a Syracuse? They would know where the team is coming from and what the Commonwealth has done to keep the spread of the virus down. You would imagine that officials in New York State or Pennsylvania would rather have a team come from the Bay State than, say Virginia or South Carolina.

So we all wait, because the virus will determine when and if we see games this fall.

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


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