The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a delay to the start of high school sports until mid-December, with three seasons being condensed into two, the California Interscholastic Federation announced on Monday.
“Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and there is no doubt that is where we are right now,” CIF-Southern Section commissioner Rob Wigod said.
The CIF declined to reduce its schedules, however, creating an overlap of seasons which will now force many multi-sport athletes to choose between teams.
The Channel League’s six athletic directors plan to meet on Thursday to revise their schedules for non-football sports.
“Let’s not focus on what we can’t do but on what we can do, and make it as positive as possible,” San Marcos High A.D. Abe Jahadhmy said. “When I looked at it, we can get it done. It’s going to happen.”
The CIF calendar includes a 10-week regular season for football beginning Friday, Jan. 8 and ending March 12, with an additional four weeks for playoffs. Teams can begin practicing on Dec. 14.
“Hopefully, we’re going to be able to just transfer our existing football schedule,” Dos Pueblos High athletic director Dan Feldhaus said. “All the other schedules will have to be redone.”
Volleyball, golf, tennis and water polo — sports in which the boys and girls teams normally play at different times of the year — will now be played concurrently. Volleyball will be among the first sports to begin competition, with the boys playing their first contests on Dec. 12 and the girls on Dec. 19.
The new CIF football calendar does eliminate football’s Week Zero, which was originally set for Aug. 21. Although DP and Carpinteria had set that as their bye week, Santa Barbara, San Marcos, Bishop Diego, Santa Ynez, Lompoc and Cabrillo had games scheduled for Week Zero while taking their byes at midseason.
The starting and ending dates for the regular season in other CIF sports (with playoffs to follow) are:
FALL SPORTS: Cross country — Dec. 26-March 5. Volleyball (boys) — Dec. 12-Feb. 13. Volleyball (girls) — Dec. 19-Feb. 20. Water polo (boys) Dec. 21-Feb. 20. Water polo (girls) — Dec. 28-Feb. 27.
SPRING SPORTS: Baseball — March 19-May 29. Basketball (boys and girls) — March 12-May 22. Cheer — March 27-June 5. Golf (boys and girls) March 20-May 29. Lacrosse (boys and girls) — March 12-May 22. Soccer (boys and girls) — Feb. 27-May 8. Softball — March 19-May 29. Swimming and diving — March 13-May 22. Tennis (boys) — March 1-May 15. Tennis (girls) — Feb. 22-May 8. Track and field — March 20-May 29. Wrestling — March 5-May 15.
Todd Heil figured all of Santa Barbara High’s schedules had been done when he took over as its athletic director on July 1.
“Now it’s like I have to reinvent the wheel,” he said wryly.
At least he will have a new Peabody Stadium at the ready. The Dons’ football, soccer, track, and lacrosse teams have been without a home for the last three years – a year longer than anticipated — while the facility was undergoing reconstruction. Football coach J.T. Stone just hopes to play this year no matter where the games are held.
“The stadium is looking very good and it’s close to being done, but it’s actually irrelevant right now,” he said. “I’m over the stadium. We have so many other concerns.”
Stone is anxious to get started with a team that returns quarterback Deacon Hill, running backs Justin Perez and Ty Montgomery, receiver Jake Knecht, and defensive star Noach Wood from last year’s CIF finalist team.
“We feel like we have the opportunity to make at least a strong effort to get into that game again,” Stone said. “We have a lot of those kids still in our program and kids coming up from our JV team who will fit right into our scheme.
“To think that the community might not get the chance to see those kids play their senior seasons, and at a stadium they’ve yet to play in, is just mind-boggling.”
Wigod said the CIF’s new calendar includes “full Section Championship experiences, which means the same number of champions in each sport, the same number of divisions in each sport and the same number of guaranteed entries from leagues advancing to the playoffs in each sport, as in previous years.”
“The CIF State office has made the decision to streamline the CIF Regional and CIF State Championships to no longer than one week, once our Southern Section Championships have concluded,” Wigod added.
But the new calendar will create several logistical issues, including field and gym space.
“The one thing we’re going to have to do is get together with the district and make sure that we have all our fields,” said Jahadhmy, referring to practice fields at other sites. “Conceivably, all of our stadiums are only going to be for games.”
Schools with smaller enrollments such as Carpinteria and Bishop Diego face an even larger problem. Carpinteria athletic director Pat Cooney noted that overlapping seasons would make it difficult for the Warriors to field teams in some boys and girls sports.
“It would force students to choose a sport over another,” he said.
It’s an issue for athletes at larger schools, as well. Santa Barbara High senior Lizzie Goss was the Channel League runnerup to teammate Melia Haller in girls golf last fall while also earning All-Channel League honors in soccer. Those two sports, however, will be played at the same time next spring.
“Not only does this strongly affect me but many other dual athletes at SBHS,” Goss said. “I don’t know the exact number of players our soccer team will lose to other sports because of the overlap, but a very, very large percent, I can tell you that.
“California community colleges are having three condensed seasons instead of two. Why didn’t CIF do that?”
Golf and tennis could have been played this fall under County Health Department restrictions, she added, since they are individual sports that are played outdoors.
“We could wear masks and easily socially distance on the golf course and tennis court,” she said.
School will be challenging enough, Goss added, with the switch to an online, block schedule. But she also said she’ll approach the situation with a positive attitude.
“We must go into the year with open minds and realize everyone is facing challenges right now, but that we will get through this together and grow so much from it,” she said.
CIF also announced that it will allow summertime rules during the school year, allowing athletes to participate with their club programs even while they’re in their school seasons. Jahadhmy said he will encourage his coaches to allow their athletes to play multiple sports.
“We all have to be really flexible to give our kids a chance to participate,” he said. “If we’re going to be fair to these multi-sport athletes, that’s the way to do it. You can’t be selfish.”