Low turnout and concussion fears force Bishop Connolly to cancel football season

A sign of the times at Fall River’s Bishop Connolly High School, as it had to cancel its football program for the season because there was just not enough kids to put a team on the field.

The School’s athletic director John Feeny said that heading into the season, 33 kids committed to play but when try-outs rolled around only 12 showed up.

Feeny said there’s a lot of factors at play, like Bishop Connolly being a small school, kids interested in other sports, but he said a big reason why is the fear of concussions sweeping across the country.

"Concussion awareness is a significant part of it. I’m not going to suggest that’s all of it," Feeny said. "There’s only so much you can do because you can’t, unfortunately, go door to door asking kids to play football."

Feeny said that participation numbers are down across the Bay State.

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, in 2005 Massachusetts had more than 22,000 kids playing football, while last year that number dipped to just below 19,000. The numbers also show that in 2017, 40 more schools offered a program than in 2005.

"A smaller school like Bishop Connolly, it can impact a lot faster and a lot harder," Feeny said. "It’s amazing to me that kids today don’t want to go out and play football and be a part of a team.

It’s a trend John Moniz, a coaching journeyman and now assistant football coach at Durfee High School, has seen.

"We’re not glorifying all the positives this game does. It teaches teamwork. It teaches working with others," Moniz said. "I think football, in general, is in trouble."

Feeny said the school called off the season early enough so athletes could explore other sports if they were interested.

Feeny would not comment on the future of the program.