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CIF-Southern Section will not crown champions for 2020 fall sports as title games are cancelled

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter


Any last gasp for a fall sport coach or athlete to call themselves a champion in the next few months was wiped out as the CIF-Southern Section announced this past Tuesday morning that it is cancelling its 2020-2021 fall sports championships. The decision was based on the coronavirus numbers not getting better after 10 months of the pandemic and the county health restrictions not changing.

Since the CIF released its colored-tier map of the state on Dec. 22 indicating which counties could resume its conditioning if safe to do so, the counties that make up the CIF-SS have remained in the purple tier, meaning the only fall sport that could operate once given the green light by health officials would be boys and girls cross country.

“We just have not made enough progress for our fall sports to even begin,” said CIF-SS Commissioner Rob Wigod during a Zoom press conference with approximately 20-25 media members this past Tuesday afternoon. “It’s so disappointing and I know it’s very, very, very hard for our student-athletes and all those involved.”

In addition to the cancellation of the fall sports championships, Wigod said that the CIF-SS is unable to have viable league play, something he has always said was necessary to have section championships. Wigod also stated that there were travel limitations for schools going from one country to another country for athletic events.

League play for Artesia High, Cerritos High, John Glenn High and Whitney High of the 605 League in girls volleyball was to have started on Jan. 8 and end on Feb. 10. The last Friday of February and the first two Friday’s of March would have been the league games for football and cross country would have had its cluster meets on Jan. 27 and Feb. 10 with the league finals on Mar. 3. Similar dates would have applied for the San Gabriel Valley League (Gahr High), the Suburban League (La Mirada High and Norwalk High) and the Olympic League (Valley Christian High).

The sports that will not have a championship for the 2020-2021 athletic season are boys and girls cross country, field hockey, football, gymnastics, girls volleyball and boys and girls water polo. However, Wigod did provide a positive outlook for the student-athletes of the fall sports, whose official seasons have now been wiped out.

“What is it from this decision that our schools can take away,” he pondered. “Well, they can take away that they have time now remaining in the fall season of sport to schedule as many contests as they possibly can. League contests [and] non-league contests that have already been postponed or cancelled could now potentially be added to our season up until the end dates for each sport. We hope that is something that will be of benefit to them without any barriers or anything from the Southern Section office that would prevent them from using that time to their advantage.”

The end dates to the fall sports are as follows: girls volleyball and boys and girls water polo (Mar. 20), boys and girls cross country (Mar. 27) and 11-man football (Apr. 17). If a county reaches the orange tier, then the other fall season sports can be allowed to practice and play games providing the school districts allow their schools to do so.

The spring season has not yet been affected and Wigod said that it is still on schedule for those sports to begin on time and that the CIF-SS remains “ready to go as planned”. The first contest of the spring season begins as early as Feb. 27 for boys and girls soccer and as late as Mar. 20 for boys and girls golf. Wigod added that in early or mid-April, the CIF-SS would determine if it will be able to have sectional championships for the spring season sports.

“We strongly support our member schools in returning to play, provided the guidelines distributed by the California Department of Public Health and local health authorities are adhered to,” Wigod said in a press release prior to the Zoom session. “We will continue to do all we can to advocate our position to those entities as well.”

Because the fall season has been officially cancelled, any games played up to those end dates as well as individual or team records will not count in the CIF-SS record book. Wigod said that games must be played under the guidelines from the CDPH.

“They are not games that should even be played,” he continued. “If they are played and there are teams out there representing their high schools, based on the letter that came out from the CIF State office today notifying all 1,600-plus member schools in the state of California, that they can not be in violation of public health guidelines and represent their high schools and be high school teams. That should hopefully clear up any confusion that might be out there and make sure that people are aware of what this means going forward.”

According to that press release from Ronald W. Nocetti, Executive Director of the CIF State office this past Tuesday, the CIF and its sections are bound by orders, regulations, and guidance of the Governor’s office, CDPH, and the California Department of Education. It also said that compliance by its member schools with the CDPH’s guidance regarding youth sports is mandatory, not discretionary.

“Any school determined to have participated in or to be conducting interscholastic athletic events in violation of the State’s orders or CIF rules may be subject to CIF Article 22 sanctions including, but not limited to, fines, suspension or dismissal from membership,” the press release also stated.

At least four Southern Section schools were confirmed to have played games recently, which is a violation of the CIF bylaws. Wigod said he has spoken to the administrations at all four schools after compiling all the information last weekend. A football game was played last Saturday between Capistrano Valley Christian High and Calvary Chapel Santa Ana. In addition, V.C.’s girls volleyball team played a pair of matches against Central Valley Christian High of Visalia on Jan. 8 and 9, according to a pair of sources at the school. The results of the matches were posted on V.C.’s athletic website at the beginning of last week but has since been removed. The fourth school is from Riverside County.

According to Wigod, the financial implications are huge as the CIF-SS has lost revenue by not hosting championship events and it depends on championship playoff revenue for perhaps 50 percent its operating budget.

“We are struggling with that tremendously,” he continued. “As you know, we’ve had to let employees go and have furloughed employees and cut expenses and done everything that we can to try to manage this crisis financially as well. Those are huge challenges for us as an organization going forward. Our schools will suffer as well. We share revenue with our schools. Championship playoff revenue comes their way as well, and obviously they’re not going to receive any of that either.”

On Jan. 8, a ‘Let Them Play CA’ private group was formed on Facebook, aimed to get high schools from across the state to have rallies in front of their schools to let state officials know of their frustrations of youth sports being shut down. The post stated that the rallies are not sanctioned events by the high schools, but instead are parent organized events.

Those rallies were held last Friday afternoon at 4:00 and according to the hundreds of posts, anywhere from 15 to over several hundred students, coaches and parents showed up to these rallies. Close to 140 state high schools participated in these rallies, none of which came from area high schools. The closest rallies were at St. John Bosco High and Cypress High. Another rally is scheduled for today in front of the CIF-SS office in Los Alamitos. Most of the comments on the ‘Let Them Play CA’ Facebook page have been bashing the CIF for not allowing fall sports to take place.

“We’re supportive of groups like ‘Let Them Play’ and others who are saying the same message as we are,” Wigod said. “We want the student athletes back in a healthy and safe way and we’ll continue to do that.

“I’m extremely frustrated by what I have seen,” he later said. “Some of it is really hard. If anyone thinks for one second that the CIF Southern Section does not want student athletes to be out participating in education-based athletics, they are absolutely 100 percent wrong. What we have said since March when this shut down is the same thing that we are saying today. This is an individual school, school district, private school decision on whether student athletes can resume to play athletics, following the guidelines the California Department of Public Health and local health authorities. It is not the CIF’s guidelines; it is the California Department of Public Health’s guidelines.”

Wigod also reiterated that the stay-at-home order must be lifted before anything can happen, including Monday’s date that was previously put out by the CDPH. Monday was to be the potential start-up date if the situation was getting better.

“As for the effort to continue to work with the California Department of Public Health and the Governor’s office, that does continue,” Wigod said. “There are still conversations between the CIF State office and those entities. We are still trying to work with them on how a potential return-to-play can be done in a healthy and safe manner. We’ll continue to do that as long as we can.”