Bishop Diego High School football went dark on Wednesday after its summer workouts were shut down by the Santa Barbara County Health Department.
“It’s ironic that it was so dreary this morning after having received the news yesterday,” athletic director Aaron Skinner said.
He said the increasing number of coronavirus cases prompted the county to issue an order prohibiting “outdoor fitness and conditioning at schools.” He was told to expect specific guidelines for all school activities “very soon” from the California Department of Public Health.
“We found out after the workout yesterday but the guys had already gone home,” Skinner said. “We sent them a message and can imagine they were very disappointed. Their families, too. I know the coaches are.
“It’s obviously great to be around the kids and see them and see the energy they had. It wasn’t just football, either — our cheer team was doing stuff, as well.
“It was great to have a little bit of normalcy again but, obviously, we understand that it’s a very fluid situation. We’ve just got to go with the ebbs and flows of this thing.”
The sports teams at public high schools have been sidelined all summer by their districts. St. Joseph and Bishop Diego — both private schools — conducted the only football workouts in Santa Barbara County this summer.
St. Joseph started its football drills on June 22 but shut them down after only a week when the cases of COVID-19 began to spike in the Santa Maria area. Bishop Diego started working out on July 6 and conducted seven practices before receiving Tuesday’s shutdown order from the county.
Monday appears to be the reckoning day for all of the state’s high school sports. The California Interscholastic Federation has indicated that it will release its plans for the 2020-21 school year by then. Rob Wigod, commissioner for the CIF’s Southern Section, has scheduled a Zoom press conference for Monday at 1 p.m. to announce plans for the Southern California area, which includes Santa Barbara County.
“We’re going to give the kids the rest of the week off and pick up again on Monday (with a Zoom conference) after the CIF makes its announcement,” Skinner said. “We’ll go through that decision, whatever it is, and make our plans from there.”
Skinner is not expecting good news now that several of Southern California’s school districts have decided to conduct all of their classes online. The Santa Barbara Unified School District is expected to release its plans during its regular meeting on Tuesday.
“I don’t think the CIF really has a choice,” he said. “The L.A. Unified School District and San Diego Unified School District’s decisions, combined with the announcement of the Community College’s athletic calendar, makes me believe that fall sports will be postponed.”
Skinner, who graduated from Bishop in 2008, was a star running back and defensive back on the Cardinals’ football team which lost a 20-14, overtime thriller to Santa Clara in the CIF Mid-Valley finals of 2007. He rushed for 1,479 yards and 17 touchdowns that season.
He worked as an undergraduate assistant coach at the University of Oregon during the 2008 and 2009 seasons before graduating in 2012. He assisted Bishop Diego’s football team that fall and then returned to the Pacific Northwest in 2014 to earn his master’s degree at Portland State. He also coached football for the last six seasons at Oregon’s West Linn High, serving as defensive coordinator.
Skinner returned to Bishop last January in both an administrative and coaching capacity. He officially took over as the school’s athletic director from interim AD Michael Cano on July 1. He’s been coaching track and field while also assisting head football coach Tom Crawford.
“It looks like I’ll be working with the wide receivers and defensive backs, and helping where I can,” he said. “A lot of it will be dependent on the A.D. job and what my days are looking like.”
This summer’s workouts were spirited, he added, with as many as 37 varsity players and 27 junior varsity athletes in attendance.
“We have a lot of returning guys and even a few who were part of the 2017 team that won the state (3AA) championship,” Skinner said. “We’ve got a lot of potential. Because of that experience, I think we’re a little ahead of the curve.”
Although the summer training was cut short, he said the seven days should prove valuable.
“I commend our coaches for their diligence in planning and in the execution of it all,” he said. “They put in a lot of time in enforcing all the (health department) rules. It was a job well done and it gives us a good blueprint.
“We should be able to hit the ground running when we do get that green light.”