The state's top health official said Tuesday that an update on the return of youth and high school sports competitions amid the coronavirus pandemic will be revealed “soon.”
Also Tuesday, the California Interscholastic Federation issued a warning to its 1,605 member schools that punishment will be levied against those that participate in unsanctioned contests after two Orange County programs met for a full-contact football game this past Saturday.
High school sports has been prohibited since the CIF ended the spring season on April 3, 2020. CIF had earlier canceled its annual state basketball championships on March 12, and a day later the final prep sports events took place in the Manteca area as campuses were recommended to shut down in San Joaquin County.
The 2020-21 sports calendar has been changed multiple times. The Sac-Joaquin Section — one of 10 Sections within the CIF — has already canceled postseason tournaments for traditional fall sports football, girls volleyball and water polo. Other Sections are following suit.
The California Department of Health Services provided a glimmer of hope last month, targeting Jan. 25 — next Monday — for youth and high school sports to begin competitions.
“We're working with a number of different partners and youth sports leaders including CIF to determine how the current conditions across the state impact that start date,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said. “Don't want to get too far ahead of those conversations, so we'll update you soon on that. But obviously the state of the surge and the conditions in many, many of our communities are pretty dire, pretty significant, so trying to work with those different partners to make sure that we land in a place that allows us to do what we've always wanted to do, which was to resume activities that so many people miss but do it safely.”
CDPH guidelines for youth and high school sports include allowable competitions under the state's color-tiered reopening plan. Most counties in California, including San Joaquin, remain in the most-restrictive purple tier while observing regional stay-at-home orders.
Only low-contact, outdoor sports such as golf, tennis and cross country would be allowed to begin next week, if the state decides to move forward under current guidelines. CIF has been urging the state to relax its restrictions and hopes to have all sports available to counties that move from the purple tier to red.
Baseball and softball fall under the red tier, while popular high-contact and/or indoor sports such as football, basketball, soccer and volleyball are in the orange and yellow tiers.
Two parochial schools in Southern California have violated county and state health guidelines with their football game on Saturday. Capistrano Valley Christian and Calvary Chapel competed in full uniform with referees and fans, according to the Orange County Register.
CIF sent a memo to its member schools Tuesday, stating:
“The CIF and its Sections are bound by the orders, regulations, and guidance of the Governor's Office, CDPH and the California Department of Education. The CIF and its Sections require and expect all of its member leagues, school districts, and schools to comply with the orders, regulations, and guidance of the Governor's Office, CDPH, and CDE.”
The memo later warned that schools in violation of state orders “may be subject to CIF Article 22 including, but not limited to, fines, suspension or dismissal from membership.”
In closing, CIF emphasizes that compliance with CDPH's guidance “is mandatory, not discretionary.”