May 27, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

CIF playoffs: who will qualify, locations for championships and who can attend

Cypress High baseball players celebrate with a dog pile after winning the CIF Division 1 championship in May 2019. The Centurions defeated Harvard Westlake 2-0 at Dodger Stadium. (File photo: Fernando M. Donado, For OC Sports Zone)

If all goes as planned, some high school athletes will once again get a chance to cap their seasons with a CIF championship celebration as a result of Monday’s announcement that a number of team sports will have post-season competition.

CIF playoffs are scheduled for baseball, boys/girls basketball, boys/girls lacrosse, boys/girls soccer, softball, boys/girls team tennis, boys volleyball and boys/girls dual meet wrestling.

CIF Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod made the announcement Monday morning and later in the afternoon said during a press conference he was looking forward to seeing post-game scenes that didn’t happen last year due to the coronavirus pandemic which put a halt on high school sports since March 2020.

“We’re going to hand plaques out again, we’re going to see those smiles, we’re going to see those dog piles and we’re going to see everyone jumping up and down and celebrating, all those things we missed,” he said.

Earlier this year, the CIF cancelled post-seasons for football, girls volleyball and cross country, but allowed teams to have regular seasons.

But with improved conditions and revised guidelines, the rest of the spring sports will get a chance to have playoffs.

This year’s CIF finals for team sports such as basketball, baseball and softball likely won’t be played at larger venues due to current restrictions by the California Department of Public Health, Wigod said. Dodger Stadium has been used for baseball finals and Bill Barber Park in Irvine for softball. A number of larger gymnasiums, such as Godinez High School for basketball and Cerritos College for volleyball, have also been used.

“RIght now, we’re planning for home sites and I think people understand that’s what is allowable now under California Department of Public Health guidelines,” Wigod said. “For the sports we listed, we are looking at home sites primarily, potentially on things breaking later, there could be a change to that but I think people should be prepared for home sites for the sports that we listed in our announcement today.”

Wigod noted that current regulations from the California Department of Public Health would not allow CIF finals to be held at one site with multiple teams.

“You’re not allowed to host a single site, multiple game, multiple school event. I know some of our basketball programs are hoping to hold some showcase events,” he said. “Those are not currently allowed to happen so if you can’t hold a showcase event, you certainly can’t hold a CIF Southern Section championship event that would hold multiple schools at the same venue. So for now, we really have to look at home sites as the avenue for delivering championship events, including finals.”

Wigod and his staff said that other individual sports that the CIF staff is working on having finals for (boys/girls golf, boys/girls swimming/diving, boys/girls Individual tennis and boys/girls track and field) would likely have one site for the finals. The swim finals, if scheduled, will not be held at Riverside Community College and Wigod said officials are looking for a new site. Wigod and his staff are working with the California Department of Public Health to see if championship events can be held for those sports.

“When we received the news Tuesday night that there was a possibility the travel limitations were lifted, that the ability for us to conduct section championships was going to be possible, we got to work immediately so for the rest of last week and up until today we’ve already been in contact with various sites we’ve been trying to line up for track and field or swimming or golf, or individual tennis and working with some county health departments,” he said.

“That will be on-going and we’re going to do the very best we can to get the information out as soon as we can get it.”

Wigod said the at-large stipulation will remain the same although a number of games teams have may be fewer games than in the past. The main criteria will be league games, he added.

“The qualifications for our playoffs in the sports we are planning on are going to remain the same,” Wigod said. “Teams do have to have a record of .500 or better to be considered for an at-large playoff berth.

“We’re going to have the same number of divisions, we’re going to have the same playoff groupings …. we have kept the same playoff divisions that we had in tact for 2020 for spring sports.”

Divisions for sports such as soccer and basketball, which had full seasons, will remain the same.

“Same number of divisions, same number of champions, the same things we talked about in July 2020 when we announced this calendar in the first place,” Wigod said. “There will be some changes and some things that aren’t exactly as they’ve always been. We’re excited we can provide the championships and we’re going to do everything we can to try and deliver for the student athletes that we promised we would do last July. We finally got our chance and we’re ready to go forward.”

Playoffs are scheduled to begin in late May and go into June. Wigod said there will be more specifics later.

“The bulletins will have many more specifics about each of those sports and those will be coming soon,” Wigod said. “You will see exact dates. An absolute date for every single game may not be the same, there may be a basketball game moved because it’s graduation day. There may be a baseball or softball game moved because there is some kind of thing that a particular school has going on.

“Everyone has to understand that as we go deeper into May and into June, those are not traditional dates that we’re normally playing CIF championship events.”

Wigod said he realizes there are challenges ahead, such as possible positive test cases among athletes.

“It will be up to our individual schools, school districts and private schools to be working with their own county along with the California Department of Public Health guidelines to deal with issues as they arise such as a positive test or what quarantine issues may be necessary,” he said.

Wigod said admission will be charged to the CIF playoffs and he’s hoping that current limitations on who can attend games may be changed by the time the playoffs start.

“Our schools are charging admission and so will we,” Wigod said. “It will be limited capacity depending on what the local county or the California Department of Public Health is saying at that time,” Wigod said. “But remember today is April 12. Our championships don’t start really until the end of May and into June. A lot can happen. A lot can change. Some of those capacity limits may be lifted in terms of percentages and a higher number of folks will be allowed to come in and watch so we will be conducting these championships as best as we can as we always have done with the exception that many will be played at home sites, vs. having a centralized venue.”

Wigod said he realizes there are challenges ahead, but is proud of what has been accomplished.

“We’re going to have concerns about a lot of things,” he said. “But I think every day we move forward in my view is another day that we’re putting a lot of this behind us. And we all know what we’ve gone through over the last year or so. And each time we are able to look at something that’s going to be positive going forward, then I see a little more space between what we’ve gone through and getting behind us.

“I said back in July when we announced this calendar we don’t need any more negativity for our student athletes. Our student athletes have had enough of that. They were shut down, they weren’t allowed to go back to school, they weren’t allowed to practice or play games ….. I want to commend our student athletes first for hanging in there with it, our coaches were fantastic in motivating our student athletes, staying connected, staying engaged …. our athletic directors, the incredible amount of juggling they’ve had to do in schedules and all the things that have gone on. …. our principals and the leadership they’ve provided. They’re not just thinking about athletics, they’re thinking about their entire programs.

“There were people who wanted to jump ship, there were people who wanted to say this would never happen. There were people who went to the different platforms to express their frustrations and blame people and all I have to say to that is, how did that help our student athletes, how did that help them stay motivated and inspired and stay ready to go for hopefully when this time would come and they would get their opportunities. So their opportunities are here and we’re going to do everything we do in the business we’re in to provide those opportunities.”

Wigod added he was appreciative of the support he and his staff received.

“For all of you who have done the work well over a year, I want to say thank you again,” he said. “These will be lifetime memories. It’s the business we’re in to create those lifetime memories and we’re looking forward to seeing those happen in the next couple of months.”

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