High School Sports Delayed Until December in CIF’s New Calendar

Photo courtesy Doug Brown
The CIF State office’s revised calendar has a two-season format — fall and spring — that would give each sport at least 90% of a normal season. There will not be any athletic competition until December at the earliest. The first week of football is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 8.

The California Interscholastic Federation released its much-anticipated revised high school athletics calendar for the 2020-21 year, announcing a two-season format scheduled to begin in December.
CIF State, the governing body for prep sports in California, announced its schedule for section playoffs and state tournaments on Monday morning. Soon after, the Southern Section, the largest section in the state with 566 member schools, released a calendar that gives student-athletes an opportunity to play “90% to 100%” of a normal season, according to CIF-SS Commissioner Rob Wigod.
“The reason for [the two-season format] was to help with the overlap of sports and trying to have some separation between two seasons to allow for dual-sport athletes, for coaches that coach more than one sport and for maximizing the utilization of school facilities,” Wigod said in a press conference on Monday.
Fall sports include boys’ and girls’ cross-country, 11- and 8-man football, boys’ and girls’ volleyball, boys’ and girls’ water polo, traditional competitive cheer, gymnastics and field hockey.
Boys’ volleyball would officially kick off high school sports on Dec. 12. Week 1 of football is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 8.
Baseball, boys’ and girls’ basketball, softball, boys’ and girls’ golf, badminton, boys’ and girls’ lacrosse, boys’ and girls’ soccer, competitive sport cheer, boys’ and girls’ swimming and diving, boys’ and girls’ tennis, boys’ and girls’ track and field, and boys’ and girls’ wrestling will be played in the spring.
Girls’ tennis will open the spring sports season on Monday, Feb. 22. Boys’ and girls’ basketball won’t start until March 12.
CIF’s announcement of a revised schedule comes on the heels of school districts throughout the state opting with remote instruction in the fall because of strict health guidelines and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest order of schools in counties on his watch list must go with virtual learning until health conditions improve. Thirty-three of the California’s 58 counties are currently on the watch list that monitors alarming COVID-19 trends.
Wigod acknowledged that the fluid situation with the coronavirus made it difficult to plan a regular three-season schedule.
“If we had made this announcement on July 1, it’d probably be different than it was [on Monday],” Wigod said. “We have obviously seen what’s happened over the last several weeks, especially the impact it has made. That’s when we really started to focus on going to two seasons and how we might be able to get all of our sports in that way versus three seasons that we might have been looking at, especially looking at potential sports in the fall.
“But now with the schools not allowing students back on campus at least for the time being, we didn’t think that was going to be very possible in the fall. In going forward, our feeling is if we could give regular seasons to the student-athletes and section championships as we wanted to, those were going to be our primary focus and the thing that we wanted to do for them and deliver for them.”
Despite the change in schedule, CIF-SS will maintain the same number of section championships, divisions in each sport and number of guaranteed entries from leagues that advance to the playoffs in each sport.
The time frame between each season does not leave much for a state tournament, so the CIF State office announced it will condense the regional and state championships to one week.
One of the biggest surprises in CIF’s announcement was the suspension of bylaws 600-605 allowing athletes to participate with their high school sports team and club squad simultaneously.
“The thought behind this decision was it would not be a realistic expectation, with major adjustments of our sports seasons, that we would still prohibit students from participating in contests for outside teams during the high school season of sport,” Wigod said in a statement.
CIF State and section officials have been working on developing a feasible schedule since the cancellation of the spring 2020 season. The announcement was welcomed by coaches and athletes throughout the state but it places a burden on school administrators and athletic directors over the next few months.
“It is a small glimmer of hope,” said Steven Hubbell, assistant principal of athletics and activities. “I hope and cross my fingers everything gets better when we get to December. … I’m hopeful and realistic to all of this. But I’m glad [CIF] actually came up with a plan and did something.”
Scheduling games, planning transportation and hiring referees can be a logistical nightmare with so many teams playing and training at the same time.
“I’m going to have to talk with the athletic directors about all these things and other issues,” Hubbell added. “It’s not just about fields and buses but also no fans and different levels of reopening. You can’t just say we’re going to start training and go tackle or with no pads on. There are lots of steps we have to get to before we get to a normal practice.”
Brian James, Burbank High School assistant principal of athletics and activities, echoed Hubbell’s cautious optimism and mentioned another issue that could arise when the season begins. Some coaches — in volleyball, water polo and tennis — will have to manage boys’ and girls’ teams simultaneously.
“The Burbank High School athletic community is appreciative of the CIF’s regard for all sports in its proposed athletics calendar given the multifaceted impact of the pandemic,” James wrote in an email. “Student athletes and coaches finally have a defined period to showcase their talents and abilities. The new calendar will not be without challenges for the BHS campus. Special considerations will be necessary to ensure multi-sport athletes are afforded opportunities to play multiple sports as seasons overlap or run concurrently.
“Several of our coaches who coach both the girls’ and boys’ teams in a particular sport will be challenged to manage those programs simultaneously. Equally demanding will be game scheduling in a league represented by four separate districts and site based management of facilities. A remaining unknown is how student athletes will be transported in accordance with governmental guidelines. Athletics during the 2020-21 school year will be a challenge, but BHS is ready to step to the plate.”
Small schools such as Pasadena Poly will be certainly be affected the most by the two-season format, which can potentially hurt participation numbers.
“The CIF announcement will affect schools in different ways,” said Polytechnic A.D. Steve Beerman. “Student-athletes will have to make choices, which then dictate if the school is able to offer all levels and, more importantly, all the sports programs as we have had in the past. We do not have lights on our field so facilities will be an issue in the spring trying to run soccer, baseball and softball practices. We will figure this out while trying to do the best we can for our student athletes.”
CIF is committed to this revised calendar and does not plan on revising the dates for the first and final games for each sport. However, it will reevaluate the situation in November or December to determine whether it is safe for high school athletics to resume.
“This plan remains in place now going forward,” Wigod said. “We were hoping our schools can get to work, and everyone can get to work on what needs to be done now to get this implemented. We’ll have to look at how things develop over the next several months.”