Fall high school sports face uncertain 2020-21 fate

Fall high school sports face uncertain 2020-21 fate

Fall high school sports face uncertain 2020-21 fateVeteran Sacramento Bee prep sportswriter Joe Davidson says it is “fourth down and super long” when describing the chances of high school football―and all other fall sports for that matter—starting as scheduled or even at all in 2020.

Fourth down and super long plans are rarely successful for the offense in football and it appears high school sports in 2020 will not be able to come up with a play that overcomes the current long odds stacking up around the coronavirus pandemic.

California Interscholastic Federation, which oversees all high school sports in the State, stated in mid-June that by July 20 a determination would be made and announced as to the status for sports in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. That means Monday is Decision Day.

When that press release came out June 12 the news on the health front was encouraging as cases in California were down and more parts of the economy were re-opening. Oh, but how things have changed since then.

Large spike

The country, with California among the worst hit, has experienced a large spike in positives tests, hospitals are gearing up for a feared influx of patients and government officials on the state and county levels are pulling back their re-opening timetable. And all of this during a hot summer that was supposed to see the virus at least temporarily fade into the background.

This Tuesday registered over 11,100 news cases in the state, the largest single day since COVID-19 landed in the United States during the winter. Since the end of last week nearly every large and many smaller school districts have announced distance learning will be in effect when the 2020-21 school year commences next month.

The Mt. Diablo Unified School District all but made that declaration official at this week’s board meeting. Local private and charter high schools signaling they would most likely be following the same course.

Major college conferences have announced that their football schedules will be with league games only and some conferences have scuttled any fall sports.

California Community College Athletic Association has a new schedule with shortened seasons during the first half of 2021. Practice will start in mid-January and competition in February for cross country, women’s golf, basketball, football, soccer, women’s volleyball, water polo and wrestling. Badminton, baseball, beach volleyball, men’s golf, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, and men’s volleyball are scheduled to start practice in late March before commencing competition on April 10.

Many ideas for how to move forward

A variety of ideas have been floated about high school football but any of them involving playing and playing in front of spectators this fall are now those with the longest of odds. Something similar to what the community colleges are doing might be the most likely when the 10 sections of CIF make their final determination no later than Monday.

Any plan is dependent on the course the virus takes as government, health and school officials will have the final call to even allow the CIF plan to be implemented. In a state as large and varied as California it is extra hard to have a one size fits all solution for this unique circumstance as has been demonstrated over the past four months.

School campuses to remain closed

All decisions are subject to change as there are no guarantees the virus will cooperate with any timetable. With school campuses remaining closed like they have been since mid-March and distance learning taking place, where does that leave athletics? Would coming on an otherwise closed campus for training and competition make any sense at all? Will music or drama groups or debate teams be allowed the same privilege?

Intersectional football games including De La Salle traveling to Texas in August for a game on ESPN and the Washington state champions coming to the Bay Area to play Clayton Valley Charter were canceled weeks ago. Any change in the schedule—even to only delay by weeks or months—will almost assuredly spell the end of any post-season playoffs.

And the more condensed time frame for a schedule that might all take place after the calendar changes to 2021 will put a strain on facilities that are already maxed out at most schools. Multi-sport athletes will likely be forced to pick one sport over another with seasons overlapping in the 2021 calendar.

Elite California high school athletes hoping to attract interest from colleges face the prospect of those chances diminishing as well. This will especially be difficult if other parts of the country go ahead with fall sports, giving those students a chance to provide colleges with a more current example of their growth and performance levels.