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Weekly Update: City Section football coaches want earlier start date

A map from the National Federation of State High School Assns. shows which states are delaying high school sports seasons.
(National Federation of State High School Assns.)

It’s time for your weekly update on the status of high school sports during the COVID-19 pandemic. California’s sports season will be delayed until December or January, the California Interscholastic Federation announced last week.

The City Section football advisory committee held a video call on Monday night with commissioner Vicky Lagos and LAUSD athletics administrator Trent Cornelius answering questions.

“We need to be cautiously optimistic,” Lagos said. “There are a lot of hoops we have to go through to make it work. A lot of positive things need to happen for this calendar to occur.”

City Section football coordinator Shane Cox said that teams would like to begin practices in the second week of November rather than Dec. 14 as scheduled since coaches have been banned from working with athletes since March 16 and need time to prepare teams for the start of games on Jan. 8.

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Cornelius made no commitment to the proposed change since LAUSD facilities have been closed indefinitely and issuing permits to use sports facilities has been suspended. Cornelius said he hopes to develop a specific authorization date that would give all schools the opportunity to resume if their principals give clearance.

The City Section is expected to send out a letter to schools in September seeking to learn which sports and how many teams they will field. There’s concern whether schools will drop lower level teams. Several coaches said they intend to continue their lower level football programs. Playing opponents twice could be an option for teams if there’s a lack of lower level programs.

Trent Cornelius, director of athletics for LAUSD, offers guidance as coaches, student-athletes and parents deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lagos mentioned that there has been discussion in the CIF about allowing teams to play games or practice on Sundays, but if that was approved, teams would have to pick another day to be off.

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Coaches who want to have a scrimmage before games begin on Jan. 8 can’t have it on Dec. 25, Dec. 31 or Jan. 1. Those are the days LAUSD is closed. One potential date for scrimmages is Wednesday, Dec. 30.

Still to be worked out are transportation and social distancing issues that remain obstacles to beginning any sports season involving football.

Also on Monday, the executive director for the National Federation of State High School Assns., Karissa Niehoff, held a video media call. The NFHS said 24 states and Washington, D.C., had announced delays to their sports seasons, with 27 states moving forward under the same schedule. The NFHS is recommending a return to sports for the emotional and mental wellness of students, although creating a safe environment is the challenge.

“The general feeling we’re hearing is coaches want to come back,” Niehoff said. “For teachers engaged in classrooms, there’s greater concern. That’s understandable.”

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Los Angeles Verbum Dei, an all-boys Catholic school in Watts, announced it will not have football or cross country for the 2020-21 school year because of safety concerns.


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