This post is more of an opinion about what could come next regarding the latest delay in California high school sports, and what to look for as it impacts state rankings, all-state teams and this web site in the coming weeks. We also reveal the results of a recent football coaches survey we did which asked a specific question about whether California should have been like many other states that played football this fall.
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Earlier announcements regarding the status of high school sports competition from the California Interscholastic Federation not only were expected, but it also was known at just about down to the hour when that announcement was going to be made. It was assumed that something would be coming out just after the traditional four-day Thanksgiving weekend, but one can check the phone only so many times during the day.
This latest one on Tuesday came out around 3 p.m. when we were on a walk and happened to be thinking more about getting outdoor Christmas lights to work. By the time we got back to the computer, it almost seemed like old news. Still, there were some immediate reactions.
1. What about those January football games?
We were expecting the first step for the CIF would be to cancel its fall sports state and regional championship events to give more flexibility to the sections, but we also were expecting that it would also be announced that all non-league football contests scheduled for January (first four weeks of scheduled season) would be in the same boat.
Given where we are with the pandemic and that it’s probably going to be a horrific few weeks in the state and nation before health care workers start to get vaccinated, getting those games in with several weeks of practice (14 days are required) beforehand seems impossible.
From a statewide perspective, the biggest of those games is the January 8 scheduled matchup between 2019 CIF Open Division state final participants St. John Bosco and De La Salle. Head coach Justin Alumbaugh of De La Salle mentioned in interviews on Tuesday morning that the January 8 date can’t be done, but that the schools are still trying to work out a different date to play.
Most schools in the state are in six-team or five-team leagues so there would seem to be still some room for them to still have one non-league game to play even if the first four weeks are unavailable.
With no CIF Open Division game for the 2020-21 school year, the only path for De La Salle to get back to being No. 1 in the state is for the Spartans to play and beat an opponent like St. John Bosco and then hope that the Braves can win the CIF Southern Section D1 crown. Mater Dei of Santa Ana obviously is the other team in that conversation and regardless of whether a DLS-Bosco game is played knows that it will play the Braves in the Trinity League and probably a second time in that CIFSS final.
2. How does this impact
the spring sports season?
Remember this year that the CIF already had moved what most folks traditionally think of as winter sports (including boys and girls basketball) into a mix with spring sports like baseball, softball and track & field.
Tuesday’s announcement doesn’t have anything to do with those seasons, but we think there’s a good chance that eventually those season schedules will be scaled back for the first scheduled month to make room for the fall sports seasons to be completed.
It never made much sense in the original schedule for boys and girls basketball, for example, for the seasons to end in the middle of June and for teams to play 25 or 28 games. Assuming the football players in the state will have to take a cut of four to five weeks off of their seasons, the CIF isn’t going to completely cancel those seasons and then have the spring sports athletes play full seasons. If spring sports seasons have to be shortened so that the fall sports kids will get to have a shortened season, that seems like an easy decision to make.
3. Why can’t the CIF be like other states and have high school sports seasons right now?
Unfortunately, it’s a fact that politics has played a major role in the approach of different states to the pandemic. Agree or disagree with the prevailing politics of various states, it’s obvious that the red states (those primarily with Republican party leaders) have had much more lenient guidelines regarding masks being worn, restaurants and bars staying wide open and high school football being played. At the same time, so-called blue states (those primarily with Democratic party leaders) are the ones with more strict guidelines from public health officials and with leaders who will issue mandates that mirror those guidelines.
California is about as blue of a state that there is in the nation. The CIF isn’t going be any different, either. It has to wait for guidelines from the California Department of Public Health before considering any return to play.
The bottom line isn’t to blame the Governor for what is obvious what is going to happen. People just need to be more responsible about doing their part to tamp down all of the numbers that are now all well known in regards to the spread of the virus.
We’re pretty sure there’s a solid majority in the state that agrees with how things have been handled so far. And if not, there are future elections and even a recall that can be tried by those who don’t agree.
4. Survey says: Most top football coaches wished season had been played in the fall
A little more than one month ago, which was about one week before the COVID-19 cases began to rise in the state, we sent out questionnaires to a group of California high school football coaches.
The goal primarily was to learn more about many of their teams, but we also included a survey that asked the following question: Should the CIF and California have matched some other states and had as close to a regular football season in the fall as possible?
There were a little more than 70 of these coaches who responded to the survey and results were as follows:
51.5 percent said YES
35.3 percent said NO
13.2 percent said UNDECIDED
We don’t know for sure, but it’s likely the results would be even higher for the YES answer if the same question was asked today.
5. What to look for on Cal-Hi Sports?
If you couldn’t tell, our strategy over the course of the pandemic has been to use the extra time do complete a lot of work on all-time lists and state record updates that we believe will be invaluable to have on the site once things pick back up again.
So far, this work has included updating everything from after the 2019 season in football, adding all individual state record categories in boys basketball, adding all team and individual state record categories in girls basketball and adding all team and individual state record categories in baseball. We are expecting to add all of the team and individual state records in baseball soon and will be adding defensive and special teams (kicking) state records in football as well.
In addition to all of that, we now have all-time NFL, NBA and MLB Draft lists completed and have compiled many other lists that can go into the archives, such as schools with the most all-state players and a project started just this week, which will be all-time all-county or all-section football teams (based on after high school accomplishments).
Tuesday’s news just means we’ll have another month of doing that kind of work before we hope to start more of our traditional preseason football features, rankings and preseason all-county or all-section honors squads.
6. With no state championships this year, how will state football rankings be compiled?
Assuming we will get at least some part of a season finished, it should be no problem to do the usual State Top 50 rankings every week and it will be easy to choose a State Team of the Year. After all, we already had been doing that work for many years before the CIF state championships were restarted in 2006 after a nearly 80-year break.
We went to a medium schools, small schools format last year with the CIF bowl games being played, but at the same time at the end of the season once again listed teams in our old Division I, Division II, Division III, Division IV and Division V breakdowns. This year, with no CIF state bowl games and no competitive equity on the CIF side to worry about, we plan to do weekly rankings in those five divisions once again so that at the end of the season we can add those teams onto the all-time state lists according to those divisions.
Competitive equity divisions will remain in the sections, but we won’t be putting schools with 3,000 kids into Division IV or Division V.
Unlike last spring, when there clearly were not enough games played for us to be able to fairly choose a state player of the year or compile all-state teams, it does look likely at this point that a high enough percentage of games will be played in football for there to be players of the year and all-state teams. It’ll just be harder in some respects to choose because we won’t have the criteria of leading a team to a state title to go off of.