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Chapter Closes for Wigod With Retirement After 12-Year Run as CIF-SS Commissioner

June 28, 02Ron Wigod

June 28, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

Rob Wigod was set to retire from his duties as commissioner of the CIF-Southern Section following the 2019-2020 school year. But the global pandemic put a temporary hold on those plans. Fast forward to now, and the time is right for Wigod to pass the torch to the next person. 

Wigod’s last day as commissioner will be Aug. 1, but his replacement, Mike West, will take over the role on Wednesday as the section’s 10th commissioner since 1913. Wigod currently ranks as the section’s third longest tenured commissioner, trailing Seth F. Van Patten (1913-1951) and J. Kenneth Fagans (1954-1975).

“I just felt at this time, after 40 years, and certainly after getting through the pandemic and getting us reestablished and back on our feet from all that, it just seemed like the right time,” said Wigod. 

Wigod has spent the last 12 years as the commissioner of the CIF-SS and 11 years as an assistant commissioner. Before working at the CIF-SS, Wigod spent 17 years as a teacher, coach and athletic director. The last two of those 17 years were spent at Los Alamitos High. When he began his tenure in 2010, Wigod told himself internally he would do this for 10 years, but in his 10th year, Covid happened and he became ‘very energized’.

“I said to myself, this is not the way to go out,” he recalled. “And I don’t mean about me. I just mean, like, I can’t have put in the time and effort in the years and not stay here long enough to get us back to where we need to be. That wouldn’t have been fair to anybody else. I couldn’t have imagined a commissioner stepping in as a new commissioner in the middle of that. There was no way I was going to walk away.”

At the conclusion of the 2021-2022 school year, Wigod said he was seriously thinking about stepping down as he knew it was the right time. He also knew that CIF-SS assistant commissioner Rainer Wulf was also going to retire after 15 years as that position and thought it would be good for the new commissioner to have the chance to hire a new assistant commissioner at the same time. 

“It was the right time for the transition,” said Wigod. “It started to sink in, as I said, in June/July of 2022 to where I kind of came to the understanding that I was going to make the announcement [at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year].”

Wigod remembered his first item of business as commissioner was to start a social media program. The CIF-SS, which oversees close to 600 high schools in the state, had not had any social media presence at any time before he took over, but he helped launch an electronic communications database system, called CIF-SS Home that, as he put it, ‘has revolutionized the business of our athletic administrators’. Wigod also wanted to go deep into the competitive equity playoffs and start looking at examining ways to make competitive equity playoffs work.  He wanted to keep expanding opportunities in sports by adding championships in girls wrestling, boys and girls lacrosse, traditional competitive cheer, girls beach volleyball with girls flag football the next to have playoffs.

“Those were some of the main pieces that I wanted to get to work on and see if we could make some changes and improvements from what we were doing,” said Wigod.

When the first full school year of the pandemic, which was 2020-2021, had concluded, the CIF-SS ended up having 19 sports championships that all fit in a four-week period the spring. Cross country, boys and girls water polo came back, but there were no championships in that season as the CIF-SS moved girls golf and girls tennis. Of the winter sports, the CIF-SS did not have wrestling championships, but had dual meet wrestling only, plus basketball and soccer. Wigod added that an important component coming out of Covid what that the CIF-SS didn’t lose two years of anything. He also believes the CIF-SS came out of the Covid situation stronger than before the spring of 2020.

“Well, it was devastating, and it was completely just difficult in every way for everyone involved,” said Wigod. “The frustration was we weren’t going to get a chance to come back. We weren’t being allowed the chance to go back and do it in a healthy and safe way. To constantly keep working on that and then constantly working on a calendar and a framework that when we did get that opportunity, how was all that going to work and how were we going to be able to restore what we do? That was a very, very tough process because it changed so much.”

He says one of the most challenging things that the CIF-SS has to keep fighting for is to preserve education-based athletics. 

“People are trying to make what we do into more of a business,” said Wigod. “And what we really believe is it is an educational platform and I think that’s been a very big challenge for us to continue to promote education-based athletics because we’re the only ones who do it. The travel ball, club programs…those kinds of groups are focused on sports. We’re focused on educating the whole student.”

Wigod will not have a chance to cross off all the boxes on his bucket list as commissioner. One of those is the competitive equity playoffs, which is slated to happen for the 2024-2025 school year. Had it not been for Covid, he said he probably would have seen it happen in all the sports instead of football. Still, he never envisioned being the top man in charge of the CIF-SS for as long as he was, let alone for any amount of time.

“Absolutely not,” he chuckled. “I had no idea that I would end up having this opportunity. I’m very grateful for the opportunity, but certainly as a coach and teacher and athletic director, I thought that would be what my career would [be]. But the opportunity to come here as an assistant commissioner was something I thought to do high school sports all day, every day, would be a great thing to be involved in.”

Wigod said he wants to continue to give back and continue to help kids. He’s involved in a couple of organizations locally that raise money and give into high school programs and middle school programs. His daughter works for the Boys and Girls Club of Long Beach and he wants to do more to help that organization. 

He also teaches in the Master’s program for coaching and athletic administration at Concordia University, something he’s done for 15 years, and wants to continue to do that.

“I want to help in any way that I can help,” he said. “I’ve also said to our organization or even statewide, that if there is anything I can offer or anything I can help with, I want to be that person. I’m not going to do the asking; I’m not going to be the guy hanging around. But I will be available for any and everything.”

As far as the future, Wigod says he is really excited about West being the new commissioner, adding that he’s been an athletic trainer, an athletic director, he’s been a principal and he’s been the president of the section’s Executive Committee at the most difficult time you could be president.

“To me, the legacy that I would want, and I think he understands it really well, what’s been important to me is that we have been serving our member schools and more importantly serving our student-athletes,” he continued. “That’s been number one. And I think we’ve worked really, really hard to develop great relationships of our school.”