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RIIL follows governor's cue, formally cancels spring sports season

Announcement comes after distance learning program is extended


WARWICK — The Rhode Island Interscholastic League and Principals Committee on Athletics released a joint statement Friday morning, April 24, a day after Governor Gina Raimondo announced students will continue distance learning for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year because of the COVID-19 public health threat.

The statement declared in accordance with the governor’s decree. the RIIL “regretfully” declared the 2020 spring high school sports season was cancelled as well.

“In our original statement, we said that we would hold a spring season if we returned to school,” said Principals’ Committee on Athletics Chairman and Cranston High School East principal Sean Kelly. “Throughout this process, we have followed the guidelines set forth by Governor Gina Raimondo, the Rhode Island Department of Health, the Rhode Island Department of Education and our Superintendents. We are going to continue to do so. We are a school-based athletic program; therefore, if we do not return to school, we cannot return to sports.

“This is obviously devastating for everyone,” Mr. Kelly continued. “It is devastating to all the student athletes, especially the seniors who have been waiting for their final high school season. It is devastating to all the schools. It is devastating to all of our communities. It is devastating to everyone. We do not take this decision lightly. It’s awful. There’s no other way to put it.”

“As we all know, we are facing unprecedented circumstances,” said RIIL Executive Director Thomas Mezzanotte. “While we have all established protocols and emergency action plans for many types of situations, we simply have no playbook to follow for this unique global health crisis. Just as we made every effort to complete the winter tournament season, we remained hopeful that at least some form of a spring sports season would be possible and spent the past several weeks exploring many scenarios in the event that it could be saved. We had the best of intentions, but unfortunately were at the mercy of this deadly virus. We are dealing with a catastrophic situation, and the only way we can respond is in a way that supports the health and safety of our student-athletes and everyone involved.

Mr. Mezzanotte added, “I commend the PCOA for the hard work, expertise and attention that they have paid to these important issues. These are not issues that we deal with every day. We also commend our 36,000 student-athletes, school and district administrators, faculty, athletic directors and coaches at all our member schools. You have shown great resilience, a willingness to adapt and support our student-athletes during this unprecedented time.

“To our senior student-athletes, we thank you for the positive contributions you made to your teams, schools and communities. While this worldwide event has caused you to grow up faster than planned, you all have very bright futures ahead. We hope the lessons learned while participating in education-based athletics, along with the friendships and memories made, will make a lasting impression.”

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.