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Ask Sondheimer: You have high school sports questions, Sondy has answers

Ocean View's Parker Walpole beats Fountain Valley's Benjamin Pardo to the finish line at Huntington Beach on Feb. 20.
(Kevin Chang / Daily Pilot)

The California Department of Public Health released its much-anticipated youth sports update last week, clearing the way for high school football and other outdoor sports to resume on Friday provided counties meet various coronavirus thresholds.

If last year was like no other in state high school sports history, this spring promises to be no different. Football in March and April. Basketball who knows when? Overlapping schedules everywhere. As part of a regular feature in the coming weeks, Times high school columnist Eric Sondheimer will answer reader questions to make sense of it all.

You can reach — and follow — Sondheimer with your questions at his Twitter account, @latsondheimer. Here are today’s reader questions:

Can cheerleaders attend football games?

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That will be an individual school decision based on county guidelines. Cheerleaders were rooting for Villa Park cross-country runners last weekend. State guidelines are spectators should be limited to immediate household members.

Why was indoor volleyball placed in the more-restrictive yellow tier?

The CIF will be sending in an appeal Monday to request volleyball be put back into the less-restrictive orange tier. The CIF thinks if athletes wear masks, it can be played safely. The belief is the state wanted a clear separation on requirements to play indoor and outdoor sports, which is why indoor volleyball was moved to the yellow tier.

What color tier do you need to be in to compete against more than one team in cross-country and track?

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The state says teams must adhere to requirements that inter-team competitions are permitted only if both teams are located in the same county or a bordering county. Local counties can make exceptions. Teams are not permitted to participate in out-of-state games and tournaments. The CIF hopes to seek a change in this rule as conditions improve.

What is the key stat for starting outdoor sports?

All outdoor sports games and full practices can begin when a county reaches 14 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people. The state releases official figures each Tuesday. You can follow at https://covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/.

Is there any chance that LAUSD allows sports this school year?

Quite possibly. The independent charter schools can definitely participate in sports if they decide it can be done safely. Austin Beutner, the superintendent for the Los Angeles Unified School District, announced Monday that sports conditioning will return to campuses the week of March 1. So there is hope.

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Will football players who already signed a letter of intent risk injury by playing?

Many will play, others won’t because of the risk. But the inclination is to play next month since college football players all received another year of eligibility, which will make it difficult for an incoming freshman to gain immediate playing time with more returning players than usual. Several quarterbacks left for college in January. Others, like CJ Montes of Lancaster Paraclete, have decided to focus on being ready to play this fall.

If there’s no basketball season, will the CIF give another year of eligibility?

Unlikely. Players, though, will have the freedom to transfer to any school they want for next season with no eligibility restrictions if basketball is not played.

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Are there plans to livestream more events?

Yes. Schools have been making plans to use livestream because of the lack of permitted spectators outside of athletes’ households. Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket as well as the NFHS Network have deals with the Southern Section to livestream events. They will get the first choices, but schools can produce their own livestreams and other entities are expected to feature football games because there will be so few states playing the sport in March and April.

Will the Southern Section use power points this season to seed playoffs in soccer if some schools play and others don’t?

Ranking teams for playoff divisions is based on two years of competition. Only football uses a single year to base playoff participation.

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Will cross-country and track and field run concurrently?

The only week the two sports converge will be March 20-27.

Will there be Southern Section playoffs for spring sports?

In April, the Southern Section will make a decision about spring playoffs. With schools in seven counties, the Southern Section faces obstacles on holding any playoffs as long as travel restrictions remain in place. Among the sections in the state where schools are in the same county or adjacent counties and potentially could hold playoffs are the L.A. City, San Diego, Oakland and San Francisco.


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