In a decision that shocked even those who had closely monitored the situation, the state’s governing body for high school athletics has announced an updated schedule for the 2020-21 school year that will keep all previous sports but employ a two-season format that is scheduled to begin in December.
The California Interscholastic Federation’s new calendar provides that athletics in the upcoming academic year will proceed with a modified format, postponing the beginning of the traditional fall season, with several sports being shuffled between seasons. The revised calendar, released Monday, sets the last day for regional or state football playoffs as April 17, 2021. The last day for all other rescheduled fall sports will be sometime between March 20 and April 17. Winter sports, such as basketball, will be woven into spring sports, with regional or state playoffs ending June 19.
Due to a significant increase in cases of COVID-19, the traditional fall slate — which includes football, boys’ water polo, girls’ tennis, girls’ volleyball and cross-country for both genders, and typically begins in late August — will be shelved until the virus sufficiently wanes, CIF officials said while announcing the new format.
The typical athletic year contains three individual seasons, but the CIF chose to reduce the number to two and move some of the individual sports to accommodate the new arrangement. The fall season will now include football, field hockey, gymnastics, boys’ and girls’ volleyball, and boys’ and girls’ water polo.
The new spring lineup will feature baseball, softball, boys’ and girls’ basketball, badminton, boys’ and girls’ golf, boys’ and girls’ soccer, boys’ and girls’ tennis, boys’ and girls’ swimming, boys’ and girls’ track and field and boys’ and girls’ wrestling. The spring season will begin in March with playoffs slated to conclude as late as June.
“The news this morning really turned the wheels of the high school athletic world, by trying its best to keep seasons for all sports without heavily shortening the seasons,” said South Pasadena High School Athletic Director Anthony Chan. “Each season is roughly between nine weeks and 10 weeks before playoffs, with all programs falling in either the fall season, which starts in December, or spring season, which starts in March.”
Many believed CIF would adopt a traditional yet truncated slate following the three-season format, but formatted into abbreviated two-month seasons. The CIF eventually chose to allow athletes to enjoy longer individual seasons, though that luxury could come at a high cost as many student-athletes may be forced to make tough decisions due to the change. With basketball moving from winter to spring, for example, many softball and baseball players will now be forced to make a decision about which sport to play.
“There are still a lot of questions to be answered in planning our seasons,” Chan continued. “Rio Hondo League athletic directors will be working this week to hash out schedules and foreseeable issues. There are now some student-athletes who will be put in difficult positions of having two sports overlapping, such as softball and tennis. Coaches have already begun listing their multi-sport athletes so we can try our best to find ways to accommodate.”
The 10 CIF sections — including the Southern Section, of which SPHS is a member — will release their own schedules.
The CIF’s announcement also temporarily suspends bylaws 600, 601, 602, 603, 604 and 605, which regulate outside competition, for all sports for the 2020-21 school year. Students will now be allowed to play on an outside club team at the same time they participate with their high school team.
Each individual CIF section and league will be responsible for coordinating practice and game schedules to facilitate conditions that would allow winter and spring sports to compete concurrently.
With approximately twice the number of participants due to the proposed change, high school golfers will be facing long waits at the first tee as well, adding to the challenges of a sport that is at the mercy of daylight.
Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod said in the announcement presented via Zoom on Monday afternoon that the possible scenarios considered by officials “changed constantly, and changed even more dramatically in the last couple weeks.”
The CIF had reportedly been looking at simply sliding the three seasons into the month of January and offering shortened, two-month versions of each with play beginning in January and ending in June. That all changed.
“In the past couple weeks we went to two seasons,” said Wigod. “Our focus was to give section championships to the students and the two seasons allowed for longer seasons.” At the end of the day, the revised fall and spring arrangement “allowed for the minimum number of changes,” Wigod said, while acknowledging that no scenario would relieve anyone — the student-athlete, coach or administrator — of tough decisions.
He stated that all adults will play a key role in the future of the arrangement.
“It will be vitally important that all adults come together and present a united front,” Wigod said. “Our kids have had enough negativity. This is when we show them that we can get the job done. This is when we teach them that we can do this, and we can do it together.”
He also said that the alternative to the new plan was untenable.
“We would be having this meeting to cancel fall sports today,” Wigod said. “I do not believe that anyone preferred that option.”
Like most in his position, Chan is looking forward to the day when the student-athletes return to action for the first time since March, when the spring sports season was abruptly shuttered.
“I appreciate CIF’s leadership in making a decision on the calendar and giving local area athletics a direction,” Chan added. “Ultimately, I think the safety of our students and student-athletes is paramount, and their calendar gives us time to return when appropriate. I am excited to continue to showcase our great athletic programs in the 2020-21 school year and continue to build on the progress our teams have made. I encourage our student-athletes to continue to stay in shape and prepare.
“I also commend the community in fundraising for [personal protective equipment] and following health guidelines. Together, we can bring our [COVID-19] numbers down to a manageable level so we can find ways to return to some form of normalcy.”
As the result of an order by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the South Pasadena Unified School District will begin the school year via distance learning.
Revamped CIF Sports Schedules for 2020-21 School Year
FALL SPORTS — Beginning mid-December
TRADITIONAL COMPETITIVE CHEER
BOYS’ WATER POLO
GIRLS’ WATER POLO #
SPRING SPORTS — Beginning early March
BOYS’/GIRLS’ BASKETBALL #
COMPETITIVE SPORT CHEER
GIRLS’ GOLF *
BOYS’/GIRLS’ SOCCER #
GIRLS’ TENNIS *
BOYS’/GIRLS’ TRACK AND FIELD
BOYS’/GIRLS’ WRESTLING #
*Traditionally a fall sport
#Traditionally a winter sport
@Traditionally a spring sport