High school sports on pandemic hold until January

Local high school fields won’t be hosting football games this fall as prep sports have been called off until the start of 2021. When and if sports do resume it’s unclear at this time whether there will be any fans—fellow students, parents and others—in the stands. ( photos)

Last month, the California Interscholastic Federation and its North Coast Section locally announced that all high school sports will move to a condensed schedule from January through June 2021 in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

And while plans and rescheduling of games have been made since the announcement, that unique schedule is predicated on state and local government and health officials allowing competition to take place on the new timetable.

Pat Cruickshank, North Coast Section Commissioner of Athletics

Governor Gavin Newsom mandated closed campuses and distance learning for the start of the 2020-21 fall term for counties with high rates of coronavirus infections, which includes the entire Bay Area and over half the state’s 58 counties. Thus, there are still many questions about how so many girls and boys teams will train and compete on otherwise closed campuses.

Until much more progress is made in the “reopening” protocols around the state related to public assemblies in this time of social distancing, it would appear games, matches and meets will be held with no or limited audiences.

NCS Commissioner Pat Cruickshank released a schedule that localized what the CIF state office posted for its 10 sections. NCS includes 18 leagues and 19 unaffiliated schools from Humboldt and Del Norte in the north through the East Bay area.

Reduced travel

Local high schools compete in the Diablo and East Bay athletic leagues. The EBAL has released most of its schedules and in many sports has divided its schools into Contra Costa and Alameda divisions which will reduce travel. Carondelet and De La Salle plus Clayton Valley Charter in football only are members of the EBAL.

Leo Lopoz, EBAL Commissioner

Football in the league is still based on competitive balance with the two Concord schools in the stronger Mountain Division. Commissioner Leo Lopoz says all EBAL league football games (frosh, JV and varsity) will be played on Saturdays so that they will take place when school campuses will have the least amount of people on site. The availability of officials might be better compared to busy Friday high school football nights.

Diablo Athletic League football is divided into six-team Foothill and Valley divisions. All DAL varsity and JV games will be played on Fridays. All the local schools are in the Valley Division.

Starting in January, competition will be held for cross country, football, volleyball, water polo, field hockey, gymnastics and traditional competitive cheer. Those sports will wrap up with section, Northern California and/or state playoffs in March with the exception of football, which concludes April 16-17.

It has yet to be determined if there will be any State Bowl Games. The April 16-17 weekend is also the date for NorCal Regional Bowls. Both CVCHS and DLS played in State Bowl Games last December.

Not a normal year

Besides the obvious difference of moving all fall sports to the winter, this format also has boys and girls volleyball taking place at the same time. In “normal” years, the girls play in the fall and boys in spring. This new schedule, of course, puts a burden on gym time at schools as well as potential double duty for coaches who handle both boys and girls teams.

Pat Lickiss, DAL Commissioner

Winter and spring sports will then take place starting in late February or early March, concluding from the end of May through the end of June. This includes traditional NCS winter sports of basketball, wrestling and soccer plus golf, lacrosse, softball, baseball, track and field, swimming and diving, competitive sports cheer (stunt), tennis and badminton.

Both golf and tennis like volleyball are combining boys and girls seasons in the spring. Usually, girls golf and tennis are fall sports. Again, this stretches facility requirements for those two sports.

School “football” fields that usually have football in the fall, soccer in the winter and lacrosse and track in the spring will now have all those sports overlapping in 2021 for practices and games/meets.

Understanding the unusual situation facing athletes and schools, CIF suspended Bylaws 600-605 for this year that will allow students to participate on their school teams simultaneously with taking part on outside teams such as AAU and club teams. Sports such as swimming, soccer and basketball in particular have year-round athletes who usually must stop competing or training with those non-school programs during their school season defined by NCS.

What about multi-sport athletes?

What that waiver does not account for, though, are multi-sport athletes who will either have to choose one sport over another or try to do two sports at the same time, such as basketball and baseball/softball.

Under the current schedule each sport has enough time to complete the maximum number of regular season games it would normally have (for example 10 in football or 24 in other sports). Out of state travel and even NorCal vs. SouCal games are likely all off the table so teams are scrambling to fill out non-league schedules.

Dec. 14 is the earliest date football, cross country, volleyball and water polo teams can officially practice. Cruickshank explains that, “until Dec. 14, the months can be used as we currently use summer months. Of course, they have to adhere to health guidelines from state and county.”

The sports that will be held later in spring can begin formal practices in February and March.


  • Non-league Games Jan. 8 – Feb. 13
  • DAL League Games Feb. 19 – Mar. 19 (Fridays)
  • EBAL League Games Feb. 20 – Mar. 20 (Saturdays)
  • NCS Playoffs Mar. 26-Apr. 10
  • Regional/State Championships Apr. 16/17

Cross Country

  • Dual & Invitational Meets January – February
  • DAL Championship Meet Mar. 6 (Hidden Valley Park, Martinez)
  • EBAL Championship Meet Mar. 13 (Newhall Park, Concord)
  • NCS Championship Meet Mar. 20 (Hayward High School)
  • CIF State Championship Meet Mar. 27 (Woodward Park, Fresno)


  • Non-league Games & Tournaments January-February
  • DAL League Games Jan. 12 – Feb. 25
  • EBAL League Games Jan. 26 – Feb. 25
  • NCS Playoffs Mar. 2-13
  • NorCal Championships Mar. 20

Water Polo

  • Non-league Games & Tournaments January-February
  • DAL League Games Jan. 20 – Feb. 24
  • EBAL League Games Jan. 26 – Feb. 25
  • NCS Playoffs Mar. 3-13
  • NorCal Championships Mar. 20

Links to high school sports organization’s websites: