Friday night lights – El Molino quarterback Weston Lewis (No. 18) dropped back to pass in a high school football clash with Healdsburg last October. The CIF announced on Monday that all fall high school sports will be delayed until December or January due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Michael Lucid  

The California Interscholastic Federation has delayed the start of high school athletics for the 2020-21 fall season to no earlier than December 2020 or January 2021, it announced in a widely anticipated press release on Monday. 

The governing body for high school sports, the CIF, in collaboration with the 10 state sections, decided that due to the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic, this was the best option to preserve all sports while maintaining the safety of its student athletes and coaches.  

 Monday’s CIF ruling did not come as a surprise, with most of the state already resigned to start the 2020-21 school year with distance learning.    

“We are continuously monitoring the directives and guidelines released from the governor's office, the California Department of Education, the California Department of Public Health, and local county health departments and agencies as these directives and guidelines are followed by our member schools/school districts with student health and safety at the forefront,” the CIF said in a press release. “As these guidelines change, CIF sections may allow for athletic activity to potentially resume under the summer period rules of the local section.”

Under the current ruling, the fall season would begin sometime in December or January, subject to any imposed guidelines set forth by the North Coast Section. Fall sports include cross country, volleyball, water polo, football, field hockey, and competitive cheer. 

In addition to the ruling, the CIF laid out a timeline for each sport to follow, specifying dates for those sports which offer state championship playoffs. 

In the coming days, the North Coast section is expected to release its own calendar to reflect regular season starting and ending dates and section playoffs. 

According to the CIF calendar, the last day for high school football section playoffs will be April 10, with the football state championships ending on April 17. 

Under the proposed plan, moving fall sports to the winter season would mean a direct conflict for thousands of multi-sport athletes, forcing many to choose between football and basketball, for example. Other winter and spring sports such as soccer, wrestling, baseball, track, tennis, golf, swimming, lacrosse and softball would also overlap, based on the revised schedule.  

North Coast Section lays out sports calendar 

Moving quickly following the CIF ruling, the North Coast Section released its revised sports schedule for the 2020-21 school year. 

The new schedule calls for fall sports to begin practicing on December 14, with the first regular season competition for most to begin in the first week of January. Cross country will start the meet season on Jan. 27. 

The NCS also announced that the winter sports season will be pushed into the spring, with official soccer practices beginning on Feb. 22 and matches starting on April 4. Wrestling teams will begin practicing on March 8 and basketball will start practices on March 15, with the first games being played on April 21. 

High school spring sports are slated to maintain their traditional schedules, overlapping with winter sports. Most spring sports, including baseball, softball, track, swimming and lacrosse will start practices on either March 8 or 15 and games will begin in late April.  Boys and girls golf will both be played in the spring, beginning in March. 

All dates could be subject to future revisions based on current health guidelines.

CIF rule eased 

The CIF guidelines regarding outside competition have been suspended for the 2020-21 school year, meaning that high school student/athletes will be allowed to participate on outside club teams at the same time they participate on their high school team. However, as stated in CIF Article 23, local schools, school districts, leagues and sections could establish more restrictive guidelines if they so choose.   


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