In a regular feature that’s our version of prep notes with opinion mixed in, we express our support for Black Lives Matter and police reform and look at ways in which high school sports can reflect this important movement. Plus, we go over a list of important current political leaders (and one major political commentator) who are former California high school athletes. We also have some thoughts on what to look for as schools consider re-opening in August with fall sports right behind and on move by CIF North Coast Section to make it possible for its Open Division football title game loser to continue to have a chance at a CIF state title.
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High school sports can seem insignificant during turbulent times, but it does play a role in the many events of the world, nation and state since many of the leaders deciding what to do next have been shaped to varying degrees by their participation in them.
One of the best examples of that is California Governor Gavin Newsom, a former basketball and baseball player at Redwood High of Larkspur. Former U.S. President Barack Obama famously was a sixth man on a state championship basketball team in Hawaii while some others from the past like former U.S. senator Alan Cranston participated in track at Mountain View in the Bay Area. Prominent U.S. congressman Adam Schiff also played tennis and swam at Monte Vista of Danville, although he now serves a district in the Burbank area of Southern California.
On the Republican side, Bakersfield’s Kevin McCarthy, the current minority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, played football for the Drillers. Bakersfield High also is the alma mater of one of the most famous U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justices, Earl Warren, who is reported to have played baseball there. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would be on this list as well since he played basketball at Los Amigos High of Fountain Valley.
Possible Democratic vice presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris was born in California, but left for Canada when she was 12 and graduated from a high school in Quebec. Republican VP candidate Jack Kemp, who ran on the ticket in 1996 with Bob Dole, was a former QB for the Buffalo Bills and at Fairfax High in Los Angeles.
The only person from a California high school ever elected President of the United States (and that will continue to be true at least until 2024) was Richard Nixon in 1968. He was from Whittier. Not an athlete in high school, Nixon reportedly was in debate and has been described as a sports commissioner.
We’ve also checked some of the most well-known political commentators of these times. Sorry, none of them from FOX News are from California, but Rachel Maddow of MSNBC is from Castro Valley High in the Bay Area and played basketball for the Trojans.
Here’s more random thoughts from all we’ve been through in recent months:
*The outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic in March was so much worse for spring sports athletes than those few from the winter who basically just missed playing in CIF state finals. Many schools in California have begun football workouts in the last two weeks, but those are being done with strict guidelines such as one coach working with a minimum of 10 players and no equipment (such as a ball). That’s obviously a long way to go before full practices and games in the fall. We’ll find out more answers by July 20 when the next CIF state update is announced, but the recent surge in hospitalizations in some parts of the state seems to make a full re-start of high school sports (even without fans) very questionable.
*As of this writing, all options for the CIF and its sections seem to be on the table regarding fall sports. It might be a good idea to follow the developments in some of the larger school districts in the state and in Northern California. Those districts will set the bar. We were shocked only a few days into the shutdown in mid-March when the William S. Hart Unified High School District in northern L.A. County declared spring sports to be over. It turns out that every other district followed and by April 3 the CIF had no choice but to cancel everything for the rest of the school year.
*As the state was starting to open back up last month, the state and nation were smacked in the gut by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. At Cal-Hi Sports, we stand with the peaceful protesters and support police department reforms. Racial inequality from a high school sports perspective can be addressed by the inclusion of more people of color as prominent coaches and officials, which is why it was heartening to see a prominent program like Bellarmine Prep of San Jose hire 32-year-old Jalal Beauchman as the replacement for longtime retiring head football coach Mike Janda. This is no way to suggest that he’s not qualified. Beauchman, a former leading receiver at San Jose State, coached the Bells’ freshman team last fall to a 9-0 record.
*Looking over a list of the 55 teams that won CIF section football titles in the state from last season, just two in Northern California and two in Southern California were coached by African-Americans. The NorCal duo were Michael Peters at McClymonds of Oakland and Anthony Goston from San Joaquin Memorial of Fresno. In the south, there was Dru Smith from Serra of San Diego and Jim McElroy of Gardena. Plus, out of all the CIF sections in the state (other than San Francisco and Oakland), there has never been an African-American commissioner and there’s never been a Black CIF state executive director, either. For many years, the only Black voice among the section commissioners has been San Francisco’s Don Collins. There needs to be more like him. We have to start seeing people in the pipeline to step into these roles as others retire.
*Another aspect of social justice is re-naming schools, mascots and even towns that have been named in honor of Confederate generals from the civil war or in honor of someone like Father Junipero Serra, who some historians say enslaved Indians during the Catholic church’s establishment of the California mission system. Any Rebel mascot that uses any version of the Confederate flag, for example, should be stopped. The town of Fort Bragg along the Northern California coast also is considering a name change since Braxton Bragg, the town’s namesake, later became a Confederate general. If that happened, we’ll go into all of our state record files and will gladly switch to the new name as quickly as possible. It’s doubtful that any of the state’s Catholic schools named for Junipero Serra in San Mateo, Gardena or San Juan Capistrano will change to another name, but Serra of San Diego (a public school) may go that route. There are plenty of great San Diegans in which a high school in that county could be named for.
*It doesn’t seem likely that any other CIF sections will go to a football playoff format like the one that the CIF North Coast Section is going to this season (whenever that turns out to be). That’s the one in which the loser of the NCS Open Division championship is going to be allowed to play the NCS D1 champion for a NorCal regional playoff spot. With just four teams in the NCS Open, that gave the section some scheduling flexibility (provided there are no super-smoke wildfires) to benefit the NCS Open runner-up. Everyone in the state knows that in the NCS where De La Salle of Concord has been ruling since 1992 that it’s an extremely unique situation. Everyone also knows that if the CIF Southern Section were ever to do something similar that the loser of the annual St. John Bosco-Mater Dei final would just absolutely destroy any other teams it would face in a similar scenario. What would be the point of that? Those two teams seem likely to play each other twice again in 2020 (or whenever the season is played) with the winner of the CIFSS D1 final going on to probably play De La Salle as a big favorite once again.
*Finally, I want to end this column with a note of congratulations to publisher Mike Calamusa and editor Chace Bryson for the 10th anniversary issue of SportStars Magazine. There are a few other regional high school sports magazines we’ve seen over these 10 years (not just in California) and SportStars is by far the best for its graphics, layout and its tone. It’s quite difficult to have a high school sports magazine last 10 years, but Mike and Chace have done it. Keep ‘em coming.