The Mercury News
CIF should be flexible on football season date of conclusion
When the California Interscholastic Federation postponed fall sports last summer until December, skeptics wondered how that would work out as the pandemic and flu season collided.
We now know the answer.
Coronavirus case numbers skyrocketed. Hospital ICU capacities fell dangerously low. And CIF officials had to adjust, again.
They delayed the postponed season indefinitely on Dec. 1, and last week the CIF’s sections began rolling out calendar revisions on top of calendar revisions.
The changes announced by the Bay Area’s two largest sections — North Coast and Central Coast — vary, but both noted that April 17 would be the final
date of football season.
There will be no playoffs — section, regional or state — and teams will have the green light to start so long as they’re following state and local health guidelines and have been cleared by school administrators and/or districts.
But just as there was some skepticism in the summer about a December start, there is some skepticism now.
The April 17 date needs to be flexible.
We’ve all made sacrifices since the pandemic changed everything about our lives 10 months ago. But for many of us, there will be time after the pandemic to return to the things that made life normal.
I’ll cover more sports. Administrators will make
more decisions. Football coaches will coach more games.
But the senior class doesn’t get a do-over. If this football season continues down the path of not happening, the seniors don’t get another chance.
That’s why the April 17 date in the NCS and CCS announcements should have included an asterisk.
We might adjust, if necessary.
“The next 4 weeks are pivotal in high school football,” Nick Tisa, a Clayton Valley Charter assistant coach, tweeted this week. “We need to change from orange to red and eliminate the April 17th date to May. It’s time to do what is right. Adjust the policies to allow kids a chance to get back on the field in a safe manner. @GavinNewsom”
Football is in the orange tier, two steps beneath the most restrictive tier (purple) in the state’s coronavirus reopening
system. Most of the state remains in the purple tier and under stay-at-home orders.
If the California Department of Public Health keeps football in the orange tier and high school officials don’t provide flexibility with the April 17 completion date, let’s break down what that means in football terms.
It’s a 21-point deficit with time starting to run out in the fourth quarter.
That’s why high school football coaches across the state, led by Serra’s Patrick Walsh and De La Salle’s Justin Alumbaugh, are pushing hard for state health officials to move football one step closer to the purple tier.
If football is reclassified as a red-tier sport, maybe there’s hope.
But even then, the score might be out of reach unless high school officials change the April 17 end date to some time in May.
The NCS announcement stated that football must wrap up by April 17 in order for the season next fall to start as planned. Practices are scheduled to begin on Aug. 9.
Brian Seymour, the state CIF’s associate executive director, oversees the governing body’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. He told the Bay Area News Group on Tuesday that the committee concluded that a 12-week separation between the end of this school year’s football season and the beginning of a 30-day period that players are allowed to wear pads before the start of next season would be sufficient.
But why does the next football season need to start in August?
We know high school sports administrators are doing all they can to get as many kids out of their homes and onto playing fields as quickly and safely as possible.
They don’t want to see a full season canceled, in any sport.
Football isn’t their only concern and rightfully so. There are thousands of kids waiting to play sports, including one of my own.
But it’d be a shame if months and months of waiting for the California high school sport that attracts the most participants ended without one last comeback attempt
— if, say, next month arrives and we’re still in the purple tier. According to the CIF’s 2019-20 survey, 89,756 boys played football across the state.
“They’re trying to do what’s right for as many kids as possible for every sport,” Alumbaugh said Tuesday about high school administrators. “They’ve been very supportive and great communicating with us. I understand that they’re trying to get the higher-tier sports in earlier and going to the lessrestricted-tier
sports further down the road. I completely get that. But April 17th? I hope there is going to be some flexibility on that — and that’s not to say there won’t be.
“I’ve heard a lot about player safety and reconditioning of pads and all that. But I don’t think that’s going to be an issue. The season won’t be that long anyway. Realistically, what’s the difference between April 17th and May 1st? And I’ve wanted to do this for a long time — push the start of the following season back to how it used to be, right after Labor Day. I’ve said this for a long time. We shouldn’t be playing 16 games.
“There’s a lot of options that could still be on the table and, to be honest, I think a lot of things are still in discussion. I don’t think anything is set in stone.”
Let’s hope Alumbaugh is right.