LODI — Representatives from seven high schools were on hand for the Sac-Joaquin Section Executive Committee meeting on Thursday to dispute concerns asserted by the Section that they blurred the lines between school and club programs with football earlier this year.
The California Interscholastic Federation sent a memo to all member schools in January pertaining to mandatory compliance with CIF bylaws and California Department of Public Health guidelines. The governing body for high school sports in the state outlined what would happen should illegal participation occur.
Ripon Christian is among the seven schools that may face sanctions before the start of the next academic school year if the SJS determines that any of them violated CIF bylaws. Athletes from these schools competed on football teams that are part of what started out as a 14-team league called California Association of Private Sports. California Department of Public Health guidelines advised against full-contact sports taking place at the time. The CAPS season started in mid-February and ended at the end of May.
From the memo: “The vast majority of our member schools have complied with the State's orders pertaining to high school sports, however, the CIF has recently become aware that several member schools have competed in interscholastic contests in contravention of the guidance of the CDPH and CIF rules. Any school determined to have participated in or to be conducting interscholastic athletics events in violation of the State's orders or CIF rules may be subject to CIF Article 22 sanctions including, but not limited to, fines, suspension or dismissal from membership.
“While the CIF understands that the postponement of interscholastic athletics due to the COVID-19 pandemic has had an adverse impact on all of our member schools and student athletes, the intentional violation of the orders, regulations, and guidance of the Governor's Office, CDPH, CDE and CIF will not be permitted. Compliance by our member schools with the CDPH's guidance regarding youth sports is mandatory, not discretionary.”
To a person, the administrators representing Hughson, Woodland Christian, Stone Ridge Christian, Capital Christian, Vacaville Christian, Capital Christian and Ripon Christian high schools disputed the alleged findings that were set forth in an email received on Wednesday that may indicate a violation of CIF orders or regulations and or guidance from the CIF or other state entities.
First-year Ripon Christian football coach Phil Grams serves as CAPS president. He also coached the Knights Outdoor Fitness & Skillz Academy, a CAPS team comprising mostly of Ripon Christian student-athletes. Grams has maintained that the club operated as a separate entity. Ripon Christian opted not to field a football team for the abbreviated high school season.
Each school representative was give three minutes to speak with no interaction from the Executive Committee or SJS staff on Thursday. Representing Ripon Christian was Superintendent Eric Segaar.
“We were addressing some allegations levied by the Section regarding the club football program that took place this late winter-early spring,” Segaar said. “Specifically that a Ripon Christian team was participating in a club sport. We as a school were not participating in any club sports, specifically not in football.
“We were kind of given an opportunity to respond today in a three-minute block of time in a public hearing which obviously wasn’t sufficient time. We have not decided if we will formally respond to the Section. I don’t know if it will do us any good. We have to look at the due-process part of it because it seems as if they will be making a decision this morning, so I don’t know if a formal response would even be considered.”
When asked, SJS Assistant Commissioner Will DeBoard recalled that the most recent sanctions levied by the Section were Sheldon High School’s basketball program for undue influence in summer-league basketball and Whitney High School for holding illegal practices. The punishment for both was a one-year playoff ban.
“(SJS Commissioner) Mike Garrison has been looking into reports that some schools were playing football when they were not supposed to,” DeBoard said. “These schools are arguing that they were playing club football only which is perfectly legal.
“We do not govern any club sports, we only govern high school sports and we do expect our schools to follow the rules. And as the letter that the state office sent out in January said, if a school plays any sport when they are not supposed to it will probably get looked in to.”
One other common theme among the speakers was a feeling that there was no due process to date. According to Garrison, when the decision is rendered next month, all concerned will have due-process rights.
“Whatever we decide, if any sanctions are provided there will always be due process for member schools,” Garrison said.