The CIF Southern Section got Tuesday going with an announcement that it was canceling its fall sports playoffs and championships to give its leagues and its schools more time to get games in. The CIF Central Section and CIF L.A. City Section made the same moves in the morning as well. The San Diego and Northern sections could be making similar moves later this week, but there was nothing official from either one. Go inside for a look at where each section in the state stands.
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There were no counties in the state as of early this week (Jan. 19) that had moved into an improved or decreased color tier in the state’s county map it is using for reopening schools, reopening businesses and to aid in the resumption of high school sports.
Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly from California Health and Human Services was asked a question about youth sports on Tuesday during a press conference and reiterated that the California Department of Public Health was continuing to work with its partners, particularly the CIF, for youth sports to be able to be conducted.
“We are working with CIF and a number of partners to determine how conditions across the state determine that start date,” he said. “Don’t want to get too far ahead. We will update you soon.”
Those conditions as of now, with the Coronavirus pandemic continuing to be in a state of surge across the state in terms of positivity, hospitalizations and death, keeps everything on hold. And with stay-at-home orders still in place for the Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California (L.A. and San Diego combined), no high school sports will be allowed of any kind. The good news in looking at the data of hospitalizations and deaths early this week, however, is that they are trending downward. Could the worst part of the surge be waning and with vaccinations getting ramped up at the same time?
According to the most recent CDPH guidelines (which were announced in early December), high school competitions could resume on January 25 in sports in counties that were operating in the purple tier. That is the highest level of the four-colored system. That’s next Monday, but the only places that are not under stay-at-home orders are schools in the Sacramento part of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section and schools in the far north CIF Northern Section.
Due to the recent surge in the spread of the disease, it has become increasingly likely that the various CIF sections in the state would have to cancel their Season 1 or fall sports playoffs and championships to give its school districts and leagues more time to perhaps schedule as many games as possible in those sports. Three of them did that officially on Tuesday.
Here’s where it stands for each section as of Jan. 19:
CIF SOUTHERN SECTION
The announcement from the CIFSS (by far the state’s largest) came early in the day and as expected it was a canceLlation of all fall sports playoffs, including football.
“There has not been enough progress made from the purple tier toward the orange tier for Football, Girls Volleyball and Boys/Girls Water Polo to even begin competition this season,” said CIFSS commissioner Rob Wigod. “Subsequently, there will not be sufficient time for those sports to conduct viable league play, which is necessary for us to be able to conduct Section Championships in those sports.”
Wigod reiterated it was not a cancellation of the entire seasons of fall sports and that spring sports (including boys and girls basketball) remains in place according to a schedule announced last July.
“Perhaps we will see case rates, hospitalizations and deaths begin to decrease and relief will come to our health care system,” he said. “With those developments, the conversations with the Governor’s Office, the California Department of Public Health and local health authorities regarding return to play can take on a different tone and real progress could potentially be made.”
CIF SAN DIEGO SECTION
In an email from first-year commissioner Joe Heinz on Tuesday, he reported to Cal-Hi Sports that an announcement regarding fall sports playoffs in that section will be coming on Friday.
The SDS had an announcement last week regarding Season 1 sports that focused on swimming and diving being moved from Season 2. It also gave a starting date of February 1 as the “official” date for practices to begin for purple tier sports scheduled in Season 1 (cross country along with swim and dive). Individual school districts, of course, could still start practicing later and no actual competitions could occur until the stay-at-home order is lifted.
CIF L.A. CITY SECTION
The pandemic is more severe in Los Angeles County and in the L.A. Unified School District (which is the L.A. City Section). Therefore, the section also announcing on Tuesday it was canceling its playoffs/events for football, girls volleyball and boys/girls water polo (all Season 1 or fall sports scheduled be underway by now if the recent surge hadn’t hit so hard) was not a surprise.
The L.A. City Section, though, did say it was planning to host its cross country championships on March 27. That could be done because all of L.A. County is within the section (unlike the CIFSS which is from multiple counties and some not even next to each other) and because cross country can be completed in the purple tier.
“Until (the stay-at-home) order is lifted by the Governor, everything continues to remain on hold,” commissioner Vicky Lagos said in a memo to member schools. “Once the green light is given by the state health department, then we must receive local permission from the L.A. County Health Department to move forward. Lastly, the Los Angeles Unified School District and charter school organizations along with their school administrations will make the final determination on CIF athletic participation for their member schools.”
CIF CENTRAL SECTION
Fall sports championships in football, cross country, water polo and girls volleyball were canceled in a release on Tuesday from the section office. The section also moved up the starting dates for several purple-tier sports like golf, tennis and swimming & diving to Feb. 15, although those section championships are still showing on its calendar for later in the spring.
“While this possibility has been discussed for some time, it is still a very difficult decision to make,” stated first-year section commissioner Ryan Tos. “While there may be changes in the future, the current CDPH guidance only allows competition between bordering counties, making section championship events impossible. This decision opens up additional dates for schools to schedule competition as the CDPH guidance allows.”
CIF CENTRAL COAST SECTION
The CCS and its executive committee did its announcement last Friday as the many #LetThemPlay rallies were getting ready to start throughout the state. It has canceled its Season 1 sports playoffs and also has given its leagues and sports the flexibility to move up Season 2 sports into Season 1 timelines. The caveat to that move is that Season 2 playoffs have not been canceled.
Another aspect within the CCS is that it gave schools the option of resuming conditioning and practicing in purple-tier sports immediately (which was Saturday).
“First and foremost, let’s get kids out and be active,” CCS commissioner Dave Grissom told the Bay Area News Group. “From a social-emotional wellbeing standpoint, our kids generally are struggling. This pandemic has been brutal on everyone, but it’s been really hard for our kids and we have a responsibility for them if we can do things in a safe way. Everyone wants our kids to get back on the field if we can.”
CIF NORTH COAST SECTION
The NCS went one step further last week in its calendar changes when its executive committee voted to approve a plan that not only canceled playoffs for the so-called fall sports (Season 1) but cancelled them for the rest of the school year in all sports.
By cancelling everything, the NCS plan is aiming to give schools and leagues the ability to simply play in those purple-tier sports first and then in the other tiers later.
“If approved as presented, leagues will set their seasons of sport based on the color tier that their county resides in and the sports allowed in that tier,” NCS commissioner Pat Cruickshank told the Bay Area News Group. “Purple sports will have the ability to go off first once the county and schools have approved it. Then once counties move into the red tier, the league will be allowed to begin that season of sport at a time that best fits them. The same will be done for the orange and yellow tier sports.”
CIF SAC-JOAQUIN SECTION
We didn’t see any updates from the SJS on Tuesday, but the section had already canceled its fall sports playoffs in an announcement on December 29.
“In a nutshell, we are advising our schools to play when you are able to via state and county guidelines and play who you can,” the section stated. “The traditional postseason is off for Season 1, with those dates now becoming part of the regular season in the hope those games can be played. We are reserving the final week of the season for a potential ‘bowl game.'”
We’ve seen other sections mention the possibility of extra games (not playoffs) for football and other sports that potentially could be played from March 1 to April 17. That’s a long way off, however, and everyone says the first priority is to get as many schools as possible back underway and to play as many league opponents as possible.
CIF NORTHERN SECTION
We asked longtime section commissioner Liz Kyle on Tuesday if her section would be doing any similar updates as other sections last week and earlier in the day. She responded via email: “I have an executive committee meeting on Wednesday, so I’ll know more on Wednesday night.”
It is important to note that the Northern Section is in the Northern California region that is currently NOT in a stay-at-home order and that prior to the post-Thanksgiving surge had no counties that were in the purple tier. All counties in that section, other than Trinity County, are still in the purple tier, however, so there’s no guarantee that not that much will be different than other sections. The difference of counties up there being red sooner or orange sooner is what is important to watch.
CIF Sf/OAKLAND SECTIONS
Schools in San Francisco are required to adhere to San Francisco Department of Public Health guidelines in addition to others, and those SFDPH guidelines state that schools need to have an approved plan for in-person learning before even physical conditioning can begin. That will make it hard for anything to happen there soon. It’s got to be mentioned, though, that the numbers of COVID-19 deaths in San Francisco have been very, very low compared to other cities. As for the CIF Oakland Section, no updates were available.
A Note About Football End Dates
At least two of the sections with announcements on Tuesday mentioned April 17 as the end date for an upcoming possible football season. There’s also been reporting that a potential season could end two weeks later than that. De La Salle of Concord head football coach Jason Alumbaugh told us last Saturday that he’s been hearing “May 1” as well. He said the time between the end of a 2021 early spring season and then the start of a normal 2021 fall season is needed for all of the pads and other equipment to be reconditioned. With no playoffs in any section (with Northern TBD) and with everyone wanting to do their best to give these kids the best chances to get in a season, adding two weeks would seem to be an easy decision for all involved.