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Loaning of football equipment no longer permitted; Interscholastic League profited slightly from postseason tournaments

August 24, 2014

RIIL executive director Tom Mezznotte Photo by ERNEST A. BROWN

PROVIDENCE – What started out as a conversation between Rhode Island Interscholastic League officials has resulted in the striking of a rule that pertains to the loaning of football equipment during the summertime.

Tom Mezzanotte, RIIL executive director, brought what he felt was a serious matter to the attention of the R.I. Principals’ Committee on Athletics during last week’s meeting. Upon holding discussions with the medical community and the RIIL’s attorney, Mezzanotte recommended to the PCOA that the practice of high schools lending equipment cease immediately.

“I think it is a dangerous situation for schools to loan that equipment because if they become concussed, you are responsible,” Mezzanotte told the PCOA, who voted unanimously (11-0) to have Article 7, Section 14 B – Use of Football Equipment during the summer – deleted from the RIIL Rules & Regulations handbook.

The now former rule stipulated that if student-athletes request football equipment for the purpose of attending summer football camps, schools needed to obtain a certificate of liability insurance. Based on research and feelers put out by Mezzanotte and his staff, most of the summer football programs that permit contact are in the business of renting equipment to the athletes.

“This rule was put in many years ago at the request of schools because they felt if you do not lend equipment during the summer, football programs could be jeopardized. That’s not the case now,” Mezzanotte said. “There are not many schools that we know of right now do not loan equipment and comply with our regulations. Most of the summer work is 7-on-7. It’s non-contact such as passing leagues and so forth.”

When asked by Westerly Athletic Director Jamey Vetelino if the RIIL was at potentially at risk in the event of additional wear and tear on school-issued football equipment resulting in serious injuries during the season, Mezzanotte reiterated his stance that the ball is in the school’s court.

“It’s their risk more than anything,” Mezzanotte said. “As an organization that provides guidance and direction for our schools, it’s important to remember that during the summer, you have no control over what’s happening with those kids.”

For schools, that particularly holds true for the R.I. Senior High School football game.

“Those kids have graduated and you have no jurisdiction over them. They have their own insurance policy,” Mezzanotte said.
Below are some other items discussed by the PCOA at RIIL headquarters, located on the Rhode Island College campus:

• The Interscholastic League still made money on its tournaments during the 2013-14 season, though not much.
Total revenue for all tournaments was $478,627 with expenses calculated out at $466,347. Boys and girls hockey was the most expensive sport with tournament revenue at $107,043 and tournament expenses set at $125,643.
When calculating the postseason figures, the league combines boys and girls in hockey, soccer, cross country, basketball, swimming, indoor track, golf, outdoor track, lacrosse and volleyball.

• The request made by Rhode Island Special Olympics to have a member sit on the Principals’ Committee was denied. The PCOA did say that someone from Special Olympics is more than welcome to attend the meetings.

• According to Mezzanotte, the RIIL has 48 fulltime members, seven affiliated members and 14 schools with alternative programs.

• During the weekend football slate that proceeds Veterans Day this year, teams are encouraged to take the time to honor military personnel with ties to the school. The holiday will be observed on Nov. 11.
“Our kids need to understand and respect those who served in the military,” Mezzanotte said.

• The Interscholastic League has received the realignment figures for spring sports. They will now be distributed to the corresponding sports committees. In addition, a survey pertaining to competing in Division I or not will be mailed to the schools. The deadline for approval is Nov. 17, which marks the next Principals’ Committee on Athletics meeting.

Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03

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