Throw out your traditional view of a high school sports season. The Northern Section on Wednesday moved to allow sports to happen as soon as they were allowed under state guidelines, while the Executive Committee also charged individual districts and schools with creating schedules and competitions based on their county’s colored COVID-19 tier.
After a 90-minute discussion, the Northern Section Executive Committee drew up and approved a motion that calls for “All sports to start when state and local health departments allow for competition, leaving open a possibility for a section-based bowl or tournament.”
The Executive Committee recommended a loose two-season breakdown of Jan. 25 through March 19 and March 29 through the end of the school year as timeframes for sports to compete. Football, however, remained the lone sport with a firm end date of April 30, a directive set forth by the state.
This means baseball could resume when a county re-enters the red tier or football when orange status is achieved. As of Thursday, Trinity and Sierra counties were the only Northern Section counties not in purple, the most restrictive tier.
The drop-dead date of April 30 gives a three-game football season a chance to start as late as April 1, as athletes must have 10 practice days logged before competition starts.
The state Department of Public Health still must give the OK to resume playing, a move many hope will happen on the Jan. 25 date officials had sought as a resumption target.
“Our concern right now is the state might come out on the 25th and bump that date back,” said Northern Section Commissioner Liz Kyle. “Right now, it’s up to the health department (as to when sports resume).
“We want the kids to play and that’s why we opened it up. If your county allows you to play baseball or softball, we don’t want to say ‘No, you can’t play until March 29.’ That’s why we agreed to let schools play whenever they’re allowed.”
The state CIF on Wednesday also rescinded its temporary suspension of its outside competition bylaw after the state updated its guidelines to say that “athletes and coaches should cohort by team and refrain participating on more than one team over the same season or time period.” This effectively bans athletes from playing for his or her school and a travel club at the same time as well as prevents coaches from guiding two separate teams, a common occurrence in the Northern Section.
But by “untethering” for the year, Northern Section schools and districts wouldn’t be constrained by the three-season model adopted earlier this school year by the section.
That essentially means sports can be scheduled and played based on their counties color classification. Because of COVID restrictions, schools can only compete against teams inside their county or with schools in a contiguous county.
The most plausible scenario for sports is like-sized schools to schedule together. For example, large schools Enterprise, Foothill, Shasta, Corning and Red Bluff could form a league to play one another, while medium schools such as Central Valley, Anderson and West Valley could join to play like-sized schools in either Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama or Lassen counties. An anomaly in this scenario is that a school such as Red Bluff could, in theory, play schools in Shasta and Butte counties, while those schools are forbidden from playing one another.
Shasta County Sports in June created an intra-county schedule.
“We’d like them to let us travel through one county because if you’re a Chico team playing in Redding, you’re not likely to stop in Tehama County,” Kyle said. “But whoever plays must first get approval from their county public health (if it’s inter-county action).”
With most Northern Section counties in purple – the most restrictive tier –the only sports eligible to compete (pending state approval) would be cross country, alpine, golf, swimming and diving, tennis, and track and field.
Sports by colored tier
PURPLE: Cross-Country, Golf, Tennis, Track & Field, Ski/Snowboard, Swimming
RED: Baseball, Softball, Field Hockey
ORANGE: Football, Soccer, Volleyball
YELLOW: Competitive Cheerleading, Basketball, Wrestling