May 30, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Saddleback College among football teams moving to February 2021 opening kick-off

Saddleback College quarterback Chance Nolan, who signed with Oregon State, goes for yards in a game last season. (Photo courtesy Saddleback College sports information)

Saddleback College officials will be preparing a revised schedule for the football team that will include seven games instead of the traditional 10 beginning in February 2021, according to Randy Totorp, assistant dean/athletic director for the school.

The action is in response to Thursday’s announcement by the California Community College Board of Directors approving a return to play model which will move all community college sports, including all fall sports, to the spring. Sports will be divided into an early spring schedule and a late spring slate. Football games start Feb. 13 and will last through April 17 with practices scheduled to start on Jan. 18.

The plan is in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has haulted sports in the state since March.

Saddleback College has 20 men’s and women’s teams that compete in CCAAA sanctioned sports, plus a surf team that competes in the NSSA, according to Totorp.

All community college teams in the state will play less games and there will not be a state playoff under the plan which was unanimously approved.

“All sports will have a 30 percent reduction from their regular season of competition, plus a one week regional playoff opportunity,” Totorp said. “For football, that will mean a seven-game regular season.

“There will be an opportunity for pre-season non-conference competition for all sports, including football. The playoff opportunity is still being worked on by each sport association and not approved yet, but will take place over an eight-day period that is designated for each spring competition segment.”

In addition, Saddleback College officials are excited about a new two-sided 8,000-seat on-campus football stadium which will open in the upcoming season. The Gauchos are coming off a 9-2 season under Coach Mark McElroy.

“The stadium is almost finished,” Totorp said. “The target for completion is the end of this month. I get the privilege of regular site walks and it is the most impressive stadium I have seen in the entire California Community College system.  The complex is going to provide Saddleback student athletes and the community amazing experience and training opportunity.  It truly delivers a university feel and will be an incredible sports destination for South Orange County.  

“We know that a reduction to regular competition and playoffs is not a perfect solution, but there is nothing about COVID that is allowing us to be normal.  Our focus remains on ensuring a safe environment, delivering excellent training, providing opportunity and supporting our student athletes. Perfect is not an option, but excellence in what we can control is.”

Totorp also explained the decision made by the community college board of directors.

“The CCCAA plan for 2020-21 is rooted in the following guiding principles: health and safety, opportunity, equity and budget,” he said. “The pandemic has impacted the lives of everyone and education/athletics certainly is part of this shared experience. Saddleback College responded immediately delivering efficient and effective remote instruction.

“From an educational standpoint, the college was prepared and has rapidly provided quality education and services for all students. Similarly, the athletics department is being flexible and have adjusted to maintain high level athletic programs.

“Our coaches continue to focus on the mission of developing students and supporting them through their educational/athletic journey.  We are conducting on-line training for all of our sports and being creative on how to keep our student athletes healthy, motivated and prepared for a future return of competition. The decision by the CCCAA to adopt the ‘contingency plan’ that moves all sports into two spring segments was not an easy one to make, however it was made by prioritizing the health and safety for all students and staff. 

“While it is incredibly odd thinking about starting a football season in February, our coaches and staff are 100 percent ommitted to providing the best opportunity and experience possible. We transferred 30 student athletes from our 2019 team and although we would love to take the field on our brand new stadium this fall, we will be ready and excited to compete this spring while moving more student athletes on.”

The plan will affect 110 colleges in the CCCAA and approximately 24,000 student athletes, conference officials indicated.

ALL COMMUNITY COLLEGE SPORTS MOVING TO SPRING

—Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com