May 29, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Tentative high school sports plan remains, but coronavirus surge causes uncertainty

CIF officials, coaches, athletes and fans had been hoping to get an update from California Department of Public Health officials this week on the state’s re-assessment of return to play guidelines for 2021.

But as of Thursday afternoon, no update had been provided, according to Thom Simmons, assistant CIF commissioner.

Simmons said CIF officials were expecting the update from state officials on Monday.

CDPH officials said in a release on Dec. 14 that no high school sports could start before Jan. 25 and that sports would be grouped in specific tiers relating to coronavirus case numbers.

“The return-to-competition date will be reassessed by Jan. 4,
2021 based on California disease transmission trends and is subject to
change at any time given the level of COVID-19 transmission in California,” the release from the state said at that time.

Since then, coronavirus cases have continued to surge and a stay at home order is in place for many counties, including Orange County.

Orange County and all of Southern California is still grouped in the most restrictive purple tier. But state officials said at the time that sports such as cross country, golf, swimming and diving, tennis and track and field could still be held. CIF Southern Section officials list track and field in the second season from March to June.

However, it appears likely that the current stay at home order would have to end for those sports to start up and there is no indication when that will happen.

“That would be up to the Governor’s office and the CDPH as it has since March 16, 2020,” Simmons said.

Irvine Unified School District Athletic Director Mark Cunningham indicated he thought the stay at home order would need to be lifted for sports to start.

“My understanding is that if we are in purple tier and the stay-at-home order has been lifted, we will be able to have cross country begin on Jan 25,” he said.

“Of course, we were supposed to have updated guidelines from the CDPH which would have informed the Orange County Health Agency to be able to present guidelines for high school athletics. Because of the decrease of capacity of our ICU hospital beds, the CDPH has been challenged.  Hopefully, we will get some direction from them soon.”

Cunningham re-iterated his support for high school athletics, saying he is concerned about the mental health aspects of athletes missing out on sports and that they “need athletics to help improve their mental health. IUSD is continuing our Phase 1 modified protocols to ensure our athletes and coaches safety.”

Cunningham indicated that CIF Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod will provide an update on Tuesday, Jan. 19 regarding the CIF playoffs.

“Just like the state CIF (state) office stated they would not have state playoffs, CIF-SS may reduce or eliminate CIF-SS playoffs so that teams can have more games and allow teams to extend their season to accommodate having more games,” Cunningham said. “Of course, most of this is dependent on the status of our county and the number of ICU beds available.”

On Thursday, Simmons said that the tentative schedules that CIF has established remain the same and confirmed that Wigod will provide his scheduled update on Jan. 19.

Simmons added Thursday that nothing has changed since last month in terms of scheduling for high school sports in 2021.

“Nothing new … no postponements since Rob’s last update,” Simmons said.

The CIF plan is to have one season from January to April and a second season from March to June, but state, county and local health officials would have to give final approval.

Wigod said in the December interview he was hopeful that football practice could start on Feb. 15 with an abbreviated schedule beginning on Friday, March 5. He also suggested that a bowl-game concept might be utilized instead of playoffs.

PROPOSED CIF SEASONS:

Season 1 sports (January – April): Traditional competitive cheer, cross country, field hockey, football, gymnastics, skiing/snowboarding, girls volleyball and water polo.

Season 2 sports (March – June): Badminton, baseball, basketball, competitive sport, cheer, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming and
diving, tennis, track and field, boys volleyball and wrestling.

TIERS BY CDPH:

Purple (Widespread): Sports allowed cross country, golf, skiing/
snowboarding, swimming and diving, tennis, and
track and field.

Red (Substantial): Sports allowed baseball, field hockey,
girls lacrosse and softball.

Moderate (Orange): Sports allowed badminton, football,
gymnastics, boys lacrosse, soccer, volleyball and
water polo.

Minimal (Yellow): Sports allowed basketball,
competitive cheerleading and wrestling.

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