The Patterson High athletics program inches ever closer towards the new year, yet the 2020-21 sports season’s fate still remains in question.

PHS Athletic Director Rob Cozart remains hopeful that the season can be salvaged, but a specter of uncertainty still lingers regarding the possibility of student-athletes returning to play again.

The good news is that athletes are permitted to begin participating in conditioning workouts for the second time on Oct. 12 due to the overall situation in Stanislaus County improving regarding COVID-19. Stanislaus County recently dropped to the Red Tier of the Blueprint for a Safer Economy reopening plan set by the state joining neighboring counties San Joaquin, Merced, Fresno and Sacramento.

Patterson High is only permitted to begin workouts with no equipment. The workouts can only take place outside. Athletes must come already dressed for the workouts and must bring their own water or sports drink. Groups are limited to 25 people or less and one coach per group. No spectators are allowed.

There are no further guidelines or a timetable as to when indoor activities can resume or when athletes will use equipment to begin practicing skill-based drills.

Patterson High had initially started the conditioning programs back in June, but after a few weeks of participating in workouts, coaches and athletes were asked to stop by Stanislaus County Public Health officials on July 3, pending further notice due to the rising number of coronavirus cases.

The CIF Sac-Joaquin Section later delayed the fall sports season on July 20 due to the pandemic, rescheduling the fall, winter, and spring sports seasons into a condensed two-season schedule that was slated to begin in December and January.

All programs 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 had been rescheduled to the spring.

Patterson Joint Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Phil Alfano stated that limited conditioning protocols are granted to begin but declined to speculate on if Patterson High will be able to meet the December target date set by the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section. He did state that the district will follow whatever guidelines they are legally entitled to.

Dr. Alfano clarified that the district is looking at various options while continuing to establish their reopening process for students to return to in-person instruction.

“If athletics are in conflict with an established reopening plan (i.e., high school students are not yet back on campus for in-person instruction, but athletics are allowed), we would need to have a separate resolution by our board to allow athletics and/or amend their reopening plans to allow in-person instruction in some capacity at the high school level,” Alfano said.

PHS athletics may endure without a firm answer for a bit longer as officials continue to work on a reopening plan to get students back in the classroom. High school athletics in Patterson may have to stay patient until that time comes.

Athletic Director Cozart shared that the situation is stuck in a bit of a quagmire, considering that the Central California Conference’s makeup can cause the seven teams issues. Two of the schools (Patterson and Central Valley) reside in Stanislaus County, while the other five schools (Golden Valley, Atwater, Merced, Buhach Colony and El Capitan) reside in Merced County, which can complicate matters if one county is further along their reopening process than the other or if one county encounters a setback in a rising number of cases. As with all actions school related, there are several variables that can aid or sink an athletic program's chances at getting and staying on the field.

The pandemic has created a tenuous situation for high school athletic programs across the state. A positive case or strict guidelines from either the state, county or school districts could further complicate their attempts to get student-athletes back on the field and play against the area’s competition.

Cozart stated that the game schedules for the upcoming seasons are all in place, but without that final commitment from Stanislaus County or PJUSD, ultimately, the sports programs are in a holding pattern as they await further instructions.

“We need a green light,” said Cozart.

PI reporter

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