Thirteen long months removed from any kind of high school postseason competition, the California Interscholastic Federation’s largest section, the Southern Section, announced Monday that it will hold playoffs and championships for spring sports.
With less travel restrictions, coronavirus cases plummeting across Southern California — once the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic — and more residents being vaccinated, the Southern Section will move forward with playoffs for basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse, tennis, boys’ volleyball and boys’ and girls’ dual meet wrestling.
“We have our eyes on the prize and what we want to try to do,” CIF-SS Commissioner Rob Wigod said during a press conference on Monday. “So give us a chance to do it. I assure you and promise you we’re giving every effort we can give so that we can make this happen.”
Southern Section officials are also hopeful of having individual championships for swimming and diving, golf, tennis and track and field. They are working with various county health departments to secure approvals to hold the events and looking for venues.
“We’re pretty confident those are going to go forward right now and people need to be prepared for that,” Wigod said of individual championships.
The playoff dates that were announced last July remain intact and there are no plans to change them.
The qualifications for playoffs in each sport remain the same with each league having the usual amount of playoff berths. At-large bids still must have a record of .500 or better to be considered for the postseason, which could be difficult for programs that have not scheduled nonleague games. CIF-SS officials hope the announcement of playoffs will encourage schools to move forward league play and schedule more competitions.
Most of the playoff games will be played at school sites and the Southern Section expects limited capacity for fans, depending on local and state public health orders. However, Wigod said “a lot can happen, a lot can change” from now until the end of May, which is when postseason competition begins.
Playoff bulletins for each sport that include information about dates, times, locations, spectators and financial matters are being developed and will be released in the near future.
State and regional playoffs are still up in the air and the CIF State office will likely make an announcement next month, according to Wigod.
It wasn’t all good news from the Southern Section, which made the difficult decision to not conduct individual wrestling championships because the California Department of Public Health does not allow tournaments for a high-contact indoor sport.
“There doesn’t seem to be a landscape going forward [where individual wrestling championships were] going to happen,” Wigod said. “So having to announce that was not possible was not an easy decision, but there was also an idea [of] how long could we let that hang out there with a realistic chance that it wasn’t going to happen. It just wasn’t fair to continue to let people believe that it might be possible.”
Wigod didn’t want to dwell on anything negative on Monday and is just glad to have high school athletics moving in a positive direction after a difficult year.
“Hopefully more and more that we do going forward puts more of [the past year] behind us and then we can look back and say, ‘Look what we got through, look what we were able to endure, and look at what was here on the other side,’” Wigod said. “We’re going to hand plaques out again; we’re going to see those smiles; we’re going to see those dogpiles; we’re going to see everyone jumping up and down and celebrating. All those things that we missed, we’re looking forward to that.”
CIF-SS officials are also working on sporting events beyond this spring season.
“I would hope and expect that once we are finished with our Season 2, with our championships in June, that we are on full speed ahead to go forward for a 2021-22 school year as we’re used to seeing,” Wigod said.