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CIF announces high school sports season won’t begin until December or January

St. John Bosco's Jake Newman, left, and Josh Alford pursue Mater Dei receiver Kody Epps in Bellflower on Oct. 25, 2019.
St. John Bosco’s Jake Newman, left, and Josh Alford pursue Mater Dei receiver Kody Epps in Bellflower on Oct. 25, 2019. The 2020 high school sports season will be delayed.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The start of the high school sports season in California will be delayed until December or January, the California Interscholastic Federation announced Monday.

In releasing a new sports calendar, the state’s governing body for high school sports might be giving the state’s more than 800,000 athletes their best opportunity to have a sports season in the 2020-21 school year. With a summer surge in the coronavirus, most California public and private schools plan to begin the academic year with online classes.

“This is the best possible plan we have with what’s going on to give students an opportunity to participate,” said Vicky Lagos, the Los Angeles City Section commissioner. “There are going to be issues in terms of facilities and multiple-sport athletes, but this is the best scenario for the most people. I have confidence the schools and coaches will work it out among themselves. My take from coaches is they want the opportunity to participate and be with the kids.”

Each of the 10 sections will release their own schedules built around the CIF calendar. The City Section and Southern Section both announced that football practice would begin Dec. 14, with games beginning on Jan. 8. High school football practice was scheduled to begin Aug. 3, with games Aug. 21.

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Girls’ volleyball, cross-country, boys’ water polo, girls’ golf, girls’ tennis and field hockey also are fall sports forced to be delayed. The new Southern Section calendar still needs to be approved at an emergency meeting of its executive council.

Under the new CIF calendar, the last section football game is scheduled for April 10, with one week for regional bowl games on April 17. The last volleyball section match would be March 13. The last basketball game in sections would be June 12, followed by state playoffs finishing June 19. Baseball and softball championships will conclude on June 19 and June 26.

If the CIF decides to postpone the high school football season until 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will top players stay or go to college?

In an unprecedented decision, the CIF will allow athletes to participate on club teams at the same time as their high school seasons in a temporary suspension of CIF rules. Local districts can have a stricter rule. Schools used to have to forfeit games when players were caught participating on outside teams during the season of their sport.

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“It is unprecedented times and given that not one sport didn’t have its calendar changed, we felt we needed to be flexible,” said Ron Nocetti, executive director of the CIF.

Principals and athletic directors are expected to meet with their coaches this week to devise a plan. Schedules will be revised. Compromises will be needed within athletic departments to solve issues regarding use of facilities and how to help athletes who want to play more than one sport. Safety protocols still need to be worked out to clear the way for practices and games.

Athletes and coaches who participate in more than one sport will face the toughest challenge having to make choices because of overlapping seasons. Football season will overlap track season. Basketball season starting in March will overlap several sports seasons. Boys’ and girls’ volleyball will take place at the same time, causing issues for coaches who direct both programs.

The Southern Section and City Section will allow summer rules during the offseason, meaning it will be up to principals and county health departments to decide whether teams can work out. If conditions improve, it would lead to schools using the fall as if it were summertime, with seven-on-seven passing tournaments, basketball games, baseball games and all-comers track meets before the official start in January.

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“I’ve been trying to make the best of the situation and control what I can control,” said Encino Crespi defensive back Chance Tucker, who has been conditioning with teammates while waiting for the CIF decision. “I feel everyone is going to need to adapt just as they did when this whole quarantine happened, and it’s really up to them to stay on top of themselves.”

Many Southern Section schools are expected to allow teams to use facilities when local health departments grant their approval. It remains to be seen when the Los Angeles Unified School District will allow coaches to begin instructing athletes.

Facilities were closed March 16, and Supt. Austin Beutner has said he wants testing of students and staff before reopening facilities. LAUSD begins online classes Aug. 18.

One section that is going in a different direction is the Northern Section, which has more than 70 schools and is based in Chico. It announced plans to allow schools to play this fall with a modified playoff structure if local health departments give approval.

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With fall high school sport likely starting in January, multi-sport athletes and those who play on club teams could have to make hard choices this school year.


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