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California Interscholastic Federation Delays Start of 2020-2021 Fall Athletic Season


By Loren Kopff• @LorenKopff on Twitter• December 2, 2020


Less than a month after area high schools were permitted to begin conditioning for their fall sports, the California Interscholastic Federation state office put a wrinkle in start of the regular season this past Tuesday afternoon. The California Department of Public Health announced it has temporarily put a stop to its youth sports guidance and is not expected to change that until at least Jan. 1, 2021 as the surge in COVID-19 cases increases daily, meaning the high school fall season, which includes boys and girls cross country, football, gymnastics, boys and girls volleyball and boys and girls water polo won’t start on time.

According to CIF-Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod, the 10 section commissioners had a meeting with the state office this past Tuesday morning where they talked about different scenarios and different possibilities.

“The primary reason why they made that decision was it would allow sections more flexibility and allow us more of an opportunity with the seasons that potentially could happen,” Wigod said.

He added that the Southern Section can always build its scheduling back from that of the state, meaning once the state announces dates of its regional and state championships, then each section has to complete its sectional championships prior to the start date of the regionals and league competition has to be concluded at a certain point.

On July 20, the CIF-SS announced its 2020-2021 athletic calendar with the boys volleyball season to begin on Dec. 12 and other fall sports to begin over the next couple of weeks. Boys volleyball is the only spring sport that was moved to the fall for this unprecedented 2020-2021 athletic season with the CIF Southern Regionals to be played Mar. 15-20, 2021. Although the state announced that there won’t be any regional championships, Wigod said the regular season for boys volleyball may not be changed.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean that the entire season in our state has to move,” Wigod said. “Our plan is to take the next week or so and get feedback from our member schools as to what they want to do. Because, we have the option to either keep the boys volleyball season as originally scheduled now this fall, or we could move it. But it’s very important for our schools to provide that feedback to us to know what they want to do.”

Wigod said the state office wasn’t going to announce the dates for the state regionals until January, thus the Southern Section couldn’t put together a boys volleyball schedule for the spring anyway. The reasoning behind moving boys volleyball from the fall season to the spring season is so it wouldn’t be in jeopardy of having two consecutive seasons wiped out. High schools were shut down this past March, right after the beginning of the spring season. The 2020-2021 athletic calendar called for boys volleyball to be played from this month through early March.

In addition, the CIF announced that there won’t be any regional or state championships for the fall sports. By doing this, it allows more student-athletes to participate in a longer season.

The Dec. 1 announcement also means the football season won’t start on Jan. 8 as originally scheduled. By law, football teams need at least 14 days of practice prior to the first game of the season and the first allowable practice date was to be Dec. 14. The more sensible plan is to have teams play a league season, consisting of three to seven games, plus another non-league game or two depending on how many league games a school has on its schedule.

“The way that plays out is let’s say they couldn’t start [practicing] until Monday, Jan. 4,” Wigod said. “Now they can start the practice leading up to the first game. Week 1 was supposed to be Jan. 8; Week 2 on Jan. 15. Those games, obviously, would have to come off the board. But by the time you get ready with the 14 days of practice and let’s say the first league games have not even been played, you’re now into the fourth game. Well, can you get viable league play between Week four and Week 10? Yes.”

The CIF-SS has also been working with the CDPH since the beginning of October trying to get a plan approved for the student-athletes to safely return to play. As of this past Wednesday, the CIF-SS has yet to hear back from the CDPH as far as what guidelines it needs to follow for such a return.

“Those guidelines hopefully will come out,” Wigod said. “I’ve committed to coming back with a status report, if you will, on our Southern Section championships on Jan. 19. These next four to six weeks is a critical time period for us, and everyone, to see where we are in early January, in middle January. We’ll have a better handle on what that actual scenario’s going to be at that time than we have on Dec. 2.”

Prior to COVID-19, high school athletic games in California have never been played on Sunday. But over the past sever months, some have speculated that the CIF might make an exception just for this situation. Wigod said there hasn’t been anything decided on possibly having Sunday games now and he doesn’t know if it’s something that would be forthcoming. He did give credit to the schools for doing a remarkable job of taking the announcement from July and making the current schedule work.

“I can’t say enough how much I appreciate that,” he said. “Our student-athletes don’t need to hear what can’t be done. They don’t need to hear that this is impossible; we can’t get all the sports in, the facilities won’t work, it won’t work with coaches, it won’t work with multi-sport athletes. I said, ‘we don’t need to hear that’. I said, ‘we as the adults need to make this happen’. We have to come through for these student-athletes and deliver what they want, and our schools have done a phenomenal job of that.”

As always, and despite the calendar put in place by the CIF, the decision to have teams play will ultimately come from school districts and individual schools based on the information they receive from the county health department. The CIF will not alter the calendar it put in place back in July.

“Throughout the time frames since July, I’ve been hopeful; I’ve been wishing for some progress made in the right direction and unfortunately haven’t been able to do so,” Wigod said. “So, we have to be prepared for…still being able to adjust and adapt, leaving the back end in place and seeing if we can still try to maximize as many opportunities for student-athletes as we can, acknowledging that we’re probably not going to start on time.”