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Sac-Joaquin Section sanctions Ripon Christian for club football participation
School’s football team gets 2-year postseason ban
Bulletin sports 2020-21
Ripon Christian football coach Phil Grams, left, watches while testing his players in the weight room during a summer workout on July 9. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin

Ripon Christian is one of four schools in the Sac-Joaquin Section to receive sanctions for their participation in full-contact games during the state’s coronavirus lockdown this past spring.

Capital Christian (Sacramento), Stone Ridge Christian (Merced) and RC are all ineligible for postseason play in football the next two years and on probation for the next three. Their athletic programs are also under probation for this upcoming school year. Vacaville Christian were levied the lightest punishment, as its football program is on probation for three years. 

Seven schools in all were represented in the SJS Executive Committee meeting on June 17 to address any concerns over illegal participation. Commissioner Mike Garrison and the Section revealed their rulings in a press release on Thursday.

“This afternoon, Ripon Christian High School administration received a letter from the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Commissioner, Mike Garrison, regarding sanctions being levied upon our football team and athletic program for alleged violations of CIF bylaws,” Ripon Christian Athletic Director Kevin Tameling said in a statement to the Manteca Bulletin. “We will be reviewing that documentation closely as an administration and school board to determine the best path forward for our school.”

Coaches and athletes from each program were involved with a club football league called California Association of Private Sports, or CAPS, in February and March. At the time, California Department of Public Health guidelines allowed for only low-contact outdoor sports — such as cross country, golf, tennis and swimming — to take place.

“While it is understood that the postponement of interscholastic athletics due to the COVID-19 pandemic was frustrating and had an adverse impact on all our member schools and student athletes, the fact is that the shutdown was a public safety issue,” Garrison stated. “We have approximately 150 member schools within the CIF-SJS and the vast majority of them held off until given the go-ahead to participate in football.

“Unfortunately, a few schools after being put on notice by the Section that participation in football would be a violation of guidance provided by the Governor’s office, the CDPH and CDE, elected to participate in football contests while wearing school uniforms, using school equipment and school facilities under the supervision of team coaches.

“We expect all of our schools to follow the rules and we attempted to be as proactive as possible in getting that message out, but unfortunately there were a few schools who ignored the guys and my guidance.”

The CAPS spring season comprised of 14 club teams from five Northern California counties — San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Sacramento, Sonoma and Kern. The season kicked off on Feb. 12, about a month before CIF-sanctioned games began for high schools programs in the Manteca area.

Some CAPS games were halted on opening night however, as the SJS sent what was deemed to be “threatening” memos to member schools connected with the club teams.

Ripon Christian football coach Phil Grams led the Knights Outdoor Fitness & Skillz Academy under-16 and under-19 teams, which he said included athletes from multiple public schools. Grams, who is also President for CAPS, has maintained that the club teams have operated as entities separate from the schools.

“Knights Outdoor Fitness still has all the equipment that they’ve purchased and they’re separate from Ripon Christian equipment — I can prove it right now,” Grams said. “They are in boxes for Knights Outdoor Fitness and unused.

“What happened with club football is no different than any other club sport,” he added. “Our Section is the only Section that pursued something like this to make some sort of point.”

There are currently no plans for CAPS to orchestrate subsequent spring seasons but Grams said several organizations have expressed interest in joining. As for the high school team, he said it will continue to operate with postseason aspirations intact.

“There’s an appeal process and there hasn’t been any due process yet, so we’re going to approach these next two seasons as normal,” Grams said.