The likelihood of fall sports — including football — taking place this autumn is extremely low.
Based on directives schools are operating on currently from the state Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control, Manteca Unified School District Superintendent Clark Burke said the traditional fall sports season will not likely occur.
The problem is not simply trying to social distance fans or whether to allow spectators. Almost all fall sports — as well as those offered in the winter and spring — require athletes to come into close contact with each other.
“We can’t simply put masks on football players and meet (the social distancing) criteria,” Burke noted.
Fall sports also include cross country, girls’ golf, girls’ tennis, girls’ volleyball, and water polo.
Burke said that doesn’t necessarily mean that the sports offered in the fall won’t be played during the upcoming school year.
But at the same time it is not a decision that just one school district can make. Besides having to comply with state and CDC guidelines that Burke notes have been changing as knowledge is gained and the situation evolves, at a minimum all the schools in a specific league would have to be on the same page. The Valley Oak League and the Western Athletic Conference that Manteca Unified teams belong to, have opponents in three different counties. Section level play for postseason includes schools in more counties.
“Our first priority is student health,” Burke said.
Burke said the district wants to be able to provide the full high school experience, if possible. That could mean different formats, abbreviated seasons, and sports being played outside of traditional seasons such as football in winter or even spring. That said the path forward needs to be a collaborative effort among various school districts that are scrambling right now to try and figure what the next school year that starts in early August will look like in the classroom — assuming the year will start with students physically on campus.
Burke noted similar issues are being faced by the California State University and University of California systems as well as across collegiate sports.
When sports do resume issues such as adequate conditioning will need to be taken into account.
The other issue facing high school sports is that paid football attendance helps underwrite not just football but other sports as well.
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