May 20, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

CIF plan for football and other sports still on but path uncertain due to pandemic

Segerstrom players take the field during a game in 2019. (File photo courtesy Mark Bausman, For OC Sports Zone)

CIF officials and high school football coaches and players continue to wait for more direction from the California Department of Health regarding return to play guidelines to determine if the games can go on as planned in January 2021.

There has been no indication whether the seasons will go on as scheduled or delayed.

CIF state officials had been expecting guidelines on youth sports from the CDPH last week, but were informed that any announcement had been postponed, according to a release from the CIF state office on Monday, Nov. 16. So, that means that the current plan of allowing conditioning drills only remains in place and that high school games cannot be held.

Under the CIF plan released in July, high school football practices are scheduled to start on Monday, Dec. 14 and games on either Thursday, Jan. 7 or Friday, Jan. 8. Most football teams have been going through conditioning drills.

In July, CIF Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod said the plan was subject to approval by state, county and local health officials. With coronavirus cases rises throughout the country, county and state and many counties in California in the most restrictive purple tier there has been no indication if or when that will come.

The Orange Couny Health Agency reported Wednesday that there 1,199 positive cases in the county and three deaths and that 479 people are hospitalized. The report noted that 58,608 people have recovered from the coronavirus.

The CIF’s revised calendar, which has boys and girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country and boys and girls water polo scheduled to start in December, is still in place, according to Thom Simmons, assistant CIF commissioner of the CIF Southern Section.

“We are still awaiting the guidelines on youth sports that are supposed to be released by the California Department of Public Health,” Simmons said in response to questions from OC Sports Zone on Wednesday.

“The CIF is not making determinations on when high school sports can return to our campuses. Those decisions are made by individual schools/school districts/private schools following the recommendations and guidelines of state and local health authorities.

“Our calendar provides a framework for how regular seasons and post-seasons can take place during the 2020-2021 school year. Whether that calendar can be implemented will be determined by our member schools, again, following guidelines and recommendations of state and local health authorities.

“In short, the update is the same as we have been sharing since July. Until the CDPH provides us further direction there is no new information to share.”

The Orange County Register reported this week that the Foothill League has already postponed nonleague games in football and would be aiming for a league schedule only.

It remains to be seen whether similar league only plans will be implemented by other leagues but Wigod, in an interview with OC Sports Zone in July previewed what he thought would happen if seasons couldn’t start on time.

Simmons’ comments this week do not indicate any change in direction by CIF officials.

“….. I think we can go on with that on to November and into December and see where we are,” Wigod said in the July interview. “If we still find we aren’t able to fit this calendar we could still push into January. We would still lose a little bit of regular season for sports that would have already scheduled games, our football teams would have to start acclimating in January but then start playing at the end of the month.

“And then they would have reduced seasons, but we could still try to keep our viable league play going and if January became the month where we had to get started, as long as we had viable league play, then we could proceed with section championships. If there became a point in January where we just ran out of time and viable league play wouldn’t be possible, then we would have to unfortunately look at cancelling the fall sports and then we would shift our focus into spring. And that would be kicking in some as early as late February, but most would start in early March or middle of March, same process.” 

Meanwhile, Orange County coaches are trying to keep their players focused during an uncertain time.

“Our guys are mentally preparing everyday as if the schedule in place is going to remain,” said Segerstrom football coach Joseph Tagaloa in an Email Wednesday. “I have spoken with our guys about being ready for the day when we get the green light to return and that means each of our players must be both mentally and physically ready to play.

“I am hopeful for the season to take place as scheduled but reality makes that seem far-fetched. We are currently taking it one day at a time and preparing for the season as best that we can under the current circumstances.

“We just finished our last day before Thanksgiving break and our players are working as hard as I could ever expect and their hard work will eventually pay off.”

“We are focused on our workouts, improving as individuals and making sure we are accountable to themselves as well as the team,” said Western Coach Dan Davidson on Wednesday. “We have many guys working out individually to improve their craft. I’m so proud of the focus of the majority of our players.”

In Irvine, most of the camps are off this week due to the Thanksgiving break, according to Mark Cunningham, Irvine Unified School District Athletic Director.

“IUSD has taken steps to slow things down and are taking steps to ensure our players and staffs safety,” he said. “Our camps are still in operation.  We are strictly adhering to the CDC, CDPH and Orange County Health guidelines. 

“Listening to the governor’s update, he said he has signed the paperwork for the new guidelines for return to play but then said he has put a pause on that.  So things do not look like they are going in the right direction with OC going from red to purple (tier).”

Cunningham said Pacific Coast League officials will have discussions next week about the future.

“We have a PCL meeting on Monday and will be addressing all options related to pre-season and league season games,” he said.

In addition, many Orange County coaches have gone on social media to ask for further direction and a number of players have stressed how much they want to play football as planned.

Some parents and fans have also expressed their concerns, stressing the importance of football and other sports while others have voiced their concerns for their daughters and sons playing sports during a pandemic.

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone;