PROVIDENCE — Gov. Gina Raimondo on Friday announced that high school football will not be played this fall.
The governor during her press briefing placed fall sports into three categories based on “level of risk/closeness of contact.”
Girls tennis and cross country are in the safest category and they are allowed. Soccer, field hockey and sideline cheer are designated in the “allowed with modifications” category. Those modifications are still being formulated by state health officials and the Rhode Island Interscholastic League, the governing body of school sports in the state.
Football, because of its level of contact, and girls volleyball and unified volleyball, because they are contested indoors, are in the highest-risk category and will not be allowed this fall.
The RIIL in a press release said it “will be adopting a four-season model and those three sports not approved to start in September will be moved to Season 3, which will be held between the winter and spring seasons at a start date to be determined.”
Brad Kelly, an assistant football coach at Portsmouth High School who helped steer the Patriots to the Division I Super Bowl a year ago, reacted to the news on Twitter.
“I understand the decision and a part of me even agrees with it,” Kelly said. “That doesn’t change the fact that myself and others feel like Fall won’t be the same without football and that players and coaches would’ve taken every precaution necessary to make the season happen.”
Kelly said he was “frustrated and jealous” that other states are able to play football when “Rhode Island came together and has arguably handled COVID better than any other state.”
This will mark the second time in three seasons Tiverton and Rogers will not play on Thanksgiving Day. The game two years ago was canceled because of dangerously cold temperatures.
“That, I understand is a great disappointment to a lot of kids out there, but I don’t want you to lose hope,” Raimondo said of the potential to play football and volleyball later in the school year.
The fall season for the sports that can play will start Sept. 21 with conditioning and practice. Spectators are allowed at games, Raimondo said, but contests will be limited to two fans per athlete with a cap at 250. Individual school districts will be tasked with enforcing that mandate.
“The RIIL emphasizes that its return-to-school-based athletics plan remains fluid and flexible, and health metrics and data will continue to be closely monitored,” the league said in the press release. “As we continue to navigate life during this pandemic, we all must stay vigilant in protecting ourselves and others from the risks and spread of the virus.”