Season delayed

What was anticipated to be the case is now official. Fall sports are going to have to wait until winter at the earliest. The California Interscholastic Federation announced the delay of the upcoming high school sports season due to the COVID-19 pandemic on July 20.

The CIF Sac-Joaquin Section reconfigured the normal fall, winter, and spring sports seasons into a condensed two-season schedule, making several tweaks and adjustments in the process.

The decision pushed back practices and competition until December and January. All programs have had their gendered sports scheduled to be played at the same time, moving girls’ golf and tennis to the spring and boys’ volleyball to be played this winter.

The normal winter sports of basketball, soccer, and wrestling have been rescheduled to the spring.

The new decisions are subject to change if the situation does not improve.

Athletic directors across the state will confer with their school districts and county public health officials to determine specific restrictions and safety protocols. There is still no guarantee of how the situation will develop or play out.

“Over the last couple months, we have been exploring, developing, and reviewing a variety of different scenarios to deliver fall, winter, and spring sports - this has been done both state and section wide. Because of the complexities and fluidity of the COVID pandemic situation, it has required our organization to take a slow and methodical approach with consistent re-evaluation of plans,” stated CIF SJS Commissioner of Athletics Michael Garrison in a press release.

The announcement gives athletic programs something to aim for as doubt and uncertainty have lingered since the cancellation of the spring season earlier this year.

Patterson High Athletic Director Rob Cozart shared that there will be plenty of work to do to make the season happen. He sympathized with the situation that coaches, parents and student-athletes are burdened with, but is confident the athletes and the local community will be ready to accept the challenges.

“Given the circumstances lately, finally hearing of a start date for our sports is a relief, and it can provide our coaches and student-athletes with goals and expectations for the upcoming seasons, even if they are more distant and compacted than ever before.  We are in unique and unprecedented times, and we all will need to work together (coaches, administration, student-athletes, community members, etc.) to ensure that we provide not only the best sports seasons possible, but also the safest and healthiest,” Cozart said. “Scheduling not only games in awkward times of the year, but also making practices work with limited facilities will be an issue, but we will have plans for making those accommodations that will allow for all of our sports to develop accordingly.”

The new adjusted schedule grouped cross-country, Division VII boys and girls soccer, water polo, volleyball, and football into the first season. All sports except football are scheduled to participate in their first game on Dec. 28-29. Football will have to wait until the new year for their first scheduled game on Jan. 8.

Cross-country, water polo, and volleyball can begin practices on Dec. 14. The regular cross-country season ends on March 6, while water polo and volleyball are scheduled to finish their season on Feb. 26. Playoffs for these sports begin in March.

The new modified regular season for football will end on March 20. Football playoffs will be reduced by one week and go from 12 to eight-team divisions, which will likely result in 10 divisions of eight teams for football playoffs, according to CIF SJS Assistant Commissioner Will DeBoard.

The second season of soccer, badminton, tennis, wrestling, basketball, swimming, competitive cheerleading, baseball, softball, golf, track and field, and lacrosse is scheduled to begin in late February and early March.

Foundation games for volleyball and basketball are approved to begin the day before the official season begins. Volleyball can host the foundation game on Dec. 28, while basketball will have to wait until March 8, 2021.

CIF SJS Athletic Commissioner Michael Garrison stated in an announcement release that they would monitor the situation and come up with measures to make further adjustments. For now, the section hopes this schedule will give local school districts and athletic directors a framework.

“We understand that these adjustments are not perfect, but for us as an organization, during this time of uncertainty, to deliver fall, winter and spring sports for the 2020-21 school year it will require vision, flexibility, cooperation, teamwork and an unwavering commitment from all involved to answer this call to leadership,” said Garrison. “Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, which we are accomplishing for the purposes of providing our young men and women with athletic opportunities during the 2020-21 school year. It is my sincere hope and expectation that we all are ready to embrace the challenges that lie ahead as we embark on this journey together.”

The section announced that it will be under “summer” rules from now until Dec. 7. Teams are allowed to begin conditioning programs if approved by the school district and public health officials. The CIF Sac-Joaquin Section and Stanislaus County Public Health officials stopped all activity on July 3, pending further notice due to the rise of positive COVID-19 cases. Schools in the county are currently still not permitted to begin summer workouts under this decision.

The Sac-Joaquin Section also waived Bylaw 600, meaning that student-athletes will be able to compete with outside club teams at the same time as their high school teams due to the changes made to the sports schedule. Usually, an athlete would not be able to compete on both teams under the section rules. The section waived the bylaw for the 2020-21 school year.

PI reporter

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