The long-awaited announcement from the California Interscholastic Federation as to what their format for high school sports would look like in the 2020-2021 school year came in the form of a press release on July 20 that was accompanied by a calendar.
We took a little time to sort everything out, and we wanted to hear about how the CIF Northern Section was shaking out, so here is our best effort at looking at the overall picture.
The following is the body of the press release and the CIF calendar, but for those who can’t wait and read all the details, we can tell you football will begin practicing in most of the 10 Sections in mid-December.
“The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) has determined, in collaboration with our 10 Sections, that education-based athletics for the 2020-2021 school year will begin with a modified season of sport schedule (see following pages for 2020-21 sports calendar). Our calendar reflects the season for each CIF sport and the last date for Section Championships and Regional/State Championships in those sports where a Regional/State Championship is currently offered. Following this announcement, each CIF Section Office will release their own calendar to reflect regular season starting and ending dates and Section playoffs. It is anticipated that most Section start dates will commence in December 2020 or January 2021.”
“We are continuously monitoring the directives and guidelines released from the Governor's Office, the California Department of Education, the California Department of Public Health, and local county health departments and agencies as these directives and guidelines are followed by our member schools/school districts with student health and safety at the forefront. As these guidelines change, CIF Sections may allow for athletic activity to potentially resume under the summer period rules of the local Section. Also, given this calendar change, the CIF has temporarily suspended Bylaws 600-605 (Outside Competition) in all sports for the 2020-21 school year (see the following pages for more specific information related to these changes).”
With respect to the bylaw changes they were meant to change the “summer period” to reflect the new calendar, allow for changes to the “season of sport,” and relax restrictions on “outside” events and competition. These changes are as follows:
Temporary Extension of Bylaws 501.F and 501.G (Summer Period)
Given that the CIF has moved the start of its traditional seasons of sport to December 2020, once allowed by the appropriate state and local agencies, CIF sections may extent their summer period up until the first date of their Fall regular season sports calendar. All summer period activities must be authorized by the member school’s principal/designee. As per CIF Article 23, local school, school districts, leagues, and Sections may develop a more restrictive rule than the CIF state office with respect to the aforementioned Bylaws.
Temporary Reconfiguration of Bylaws 504.E. and H. (Season of Sport)
As per the 2020-21 sports calendar, the CIF has made adjustments to the traditional seasons of sport. Each CIF Section well release their own calendar to reflect regular season starting and ending dates and section playoffs. It is anticipated that most section start dates will commence in December 2010 or January 2021.
Temporary Suspension of Bylaws 600-605 (Outside Competition)
Due to the need to move sports to non-traditional times of the year, the CIF is temporarily suspending Bylaws 600, 601, 602, 602, 604 and 605 for all sports for the 2020-21 school year. Accordingly, students will be allowed to participate on an outside team at the same time they participate on their high school team. As per CIF Article 23, local schools, school districts, leagues, and sections may develop a more restrictive rule than the CIF state office with respect to the aforementioned Bylaws.
Ever since the CIF initially said in the June 12 press release that they would make the July 20 main announcement, state CIF officials and the 10 section commissioners held many virtual meetings over the six-week period so they could all try and get on the same page, and by and large they did with some exceptions. Because they were well prepared when the CIF schedule was released, almost simultaneously the CIF Southern Section and the CIF North Coast Section released their proposed calendars, and the other sections followed.
We won’t go into the complete schedule for every sport, or even all sports that go to a regional and state championship, but what has happened is the school year for sports has been split into two seasons by the state CIF - fall and spring - and that means overlapping seasons and changes in just about every sport in the time of year it is played. The following are the new Season of Sport lists.
Water Polo (Boys/Girls)
Traditional Competitive Cheer
Skiing & Snowboarding
Swimming & Diving
Track & Field
Competitive Sports Cheer
The CIF calendar does not have start dates for the sports. Those dates were determined by the individual sections. What the CIF does have is a “Last Day for Section Playoffs” and a “Last Day for Regional/State Championship.” From there the 10 sections work backwards from the Last Day for section playoffs to schedule that sport’s season beginning with the first date of practice.
Each of the regional and state championships has been reduced to one week so as to facilitate section playoffs in their entirety for each sport.
“From the beginning we’ve stated our goal was a full slate of section playoffs,” CIF Executive Director Ron Nocetti stated during a Prep2Prep “Beyond the Game” Podcast held shortly after the CIF announcement last week. “The only way we could allow for a full slate of section playoffs was to condense the Regional and state playoffs to one week.”
We will look at how this impacts the major sports that go to a regional and state championship, starting with football.
While some sports such as basketball conceivably could condense the regional and state playoffs into one week, football can’t do that since under current rules there has to be four days minimum between games. That means football has limited options and, according to Nocetti, figuring out that scenario “is the next biggest thing we’re going to work on.”
As we see it, the first scenario is the only state championship for football would be in the Open Division. The format for the Open Division would not change since as of the 2014 season and unlike the other divisions, the Open has not had a regional game and gone straight to a state title game. The remaining divisions from 1-AA to 7-AA would only crown a regional champion.
Unless additional scheduling changes are made, the only other scenario we see at this time would be to have an Open Division title game and then the rest of the divisions would revert to the old system prior to regional games being held, when the CIF placed teams on the “board” and then chose which teams would fill the slots and advance to a state Bowl Game championship. In other words, there would be no regional competition.
Most ADs and coaches queried were overwhelmingly in favor of the first scenario. Not only would just about twice as many teams get a regional game, but the participating team’s fans would have more access to the games, if in fact fans are allowed to pack the stands like they do for almost all the regional games.
Football moving forward
Let’s look at the CIF state schedule for football and see how the two Bay Area Sections, North Coast and Central Coast, as well as the state’s largest Section, the Southern Section, have fit their playoffs into the state schedule.
As previously stated the CIF set the dates for the Last Day of Section Playoffs, and the Last Day for Regional/State Championships, and the sections work backwards from there. For football those dates are April 10 and April 17, respectively.
The North Coast Section calendar allows for the first date of practice to take place on December 14, the same day the Summer Period in the NCS ends for all sports. From there, the calendar is as follows:
- Sit Out Period (37 Days) – Feb. 11, 2021
- Window for schools to play one scrimmage, provided individuals have had at least 10 days of practice – Dec. 25, 2020-Jan. 2, 2021
- First date schools can play a game, provided the team has had at least 14 days of practice and individuals have had at least 10 days of practice – Jan. 6, 2021 (Week 0)
- Final date of competition other the NCS/CIF – Mar. 20, 2021 (74 days)
- NCS postseason applications due – Mar. 20, 2021 (10pm)
- NCS at-large and seeding meeting – Mar. 21, 2021
- NCS championship quarterfinals – Mar. 26/27, 2021
- NCS championship semifinals – Apr. 2/3, 2021
- NCS championship finals – Apr. 9/10, 2021
- CIF NorCal Regional championships/Bowl games – Apr. 16/17, 2021
The Central Coast Section calendar is as follows:
- Summer Period ends for all sports – Dec. 12, 2020
- First date of practice – Dec. 14, 2021
- First date of contests – Jan. 8, 2021
- Section final date – Apr. 10, 2021
The Southern Section actually released its calendar in the early morning of July 20, and prior to the CIF state announcement, with a Summer Period ending with the beginning of Fall sports in December. Here is its 11-Man football calendar:
- First practice date – Dec. 14, 2020
- Week 1 contest date – Jan. 8, 2021
- Sit-out period – Feb. 8, 2021 (32 days)
- Week 10 contest date – Mar. 12, 2021
- CIF Southern Section playoffs – Mar. 19, 2021
- CIF Southern Section championship finals – Apr. 9/10
- CIF State Championship Bowl Games – Apr. 16/17, 2021
Basketball moves to spring
The girls and boys basketball seasons - along with boys/girls soccer and wrestling - have moved from the traditional winter schedule to the spring. The CIF has set June 12 as the Last Day for Section Playoffs and June 19 as the Last Day for Regional/State Championships.
The North Coast Section basketball calendar is as follows:
- First date of practice – Mar. 15, 2021
- Sit-out period – Apr. 21, 2021 (38 days)
- Foundation Game date – Mar. 30, 2021
- Final date of competition other than NCS/CIF – May 29, 2021 (76 days)
- NCS postseason applications due – May 29, 2021 (10pm)
- NCS at-large and seeding meeting – May 30, 2021
- NCS Championship first round – Jun. 1-3, 2021
- NCS Championship quarterfinals – Jun. 4-5, 2021
- NCS Championship semifinals – Jun. 8-9, 2021
- NCS Championship finals – Jun. 11-12, 2021
- CIF NorCal Regional/State Championship (final date) – Jun. 18-19, 2021
The Central Coast Section will use these dates:
- Practice start date – Mar. 15, 2021
- First day of contests – Mar. 29, 2021
- Section final date – Jun. 12, 2021
The CIF Southern Section has this schedule for its competition:
- First contest date – Mar. 12, 2021
- Sit-out period – Apr. 16, 2021 (36 days)
- Last League contest – May 21, 2021
- Last allowable contest – May 22, 2021 (72 days)
- CIF Southern Section Championship finals – Jun. 11/12
- CIF State Championship finals – Jun. 18/19, 2021
The complete state CIF calendar for all sports can be found on its website, plus each section has its complete calendar on their respective web sites.
CIF Northern Section goes its own way – sort of
We didn’t plan on saving one of the most controversial situations that have evolved for last, and that’s what’s going on in the CIF Northern Section.
Part of the reason we waited to do this in-depth look at the potential for high school sports resuming is things have been a bit unsettled in the far north and its 73 high schools, but most of it was unveiled during our most recent “Beyond the Game” podcast earlier this week in which we interviewed two of the most successful coaches in recent CIF-NS history, Mark Cooley of Pleasant Valley-Chico and Ryan Reynolds of Sutter.
The discussions were centered on the fact that with respect to the bylaw change to Season of Sport by the state CIF, the Northern Section has chosen to not adopt that calendar and try to begin their calendar in the fall. And in a July 20 announcement on its website the Northern Section acknowledged the inevitable in adopting their calendar. “This decision could result in the removal of some sports from CIF State championship-level playoffs,” the notice read.
Once again, we can’t get into each of the sports calendars, so we’ll focus on football, and that’s where the biggest controversy in the Northern Section exists.
The Northern Section will limit football (except 8-man) to 10 contacts, allow its first contest on August 21, institute a sit-out period that ends September 28, make November 6 the last contest date, and hold the Section seeding meeting on November 7.
These dates were decided on before Butte County was recently put on the governor’s “watch list,” and hopefully not, but Shasta County could potentially be put on the list. So while a fall start may be possible for the two-thirds of the schools in the CIF-NS considered small schools, the August 3 date for allowing the beginning of practice is not possible in Butte County. In fact, during the podcast, Cooley confirmed that schools in Shasta county have been told to shut down by local officials.
Cooley also confirmed that on July 24 the schools in the Eastern Athletic League - Pleasant Valley, Chico, Enterprise-Redding, Foothill-Palo Cedro, Red Bluff and Shasta-Redding - voted to adopt the state CIF calendar for football.
Even before the vote, and in preparation last week for the podcast, both Cooley and Reynolds stated their programs wanted to go with the state CIF schedule to be eligible for the state Bowl Game championships – and why not?
Cooley has made three appearances in a CIF Bowl Game championship and won two at Pleasant Valley and had a runner-up finish when he was at Hamilton City, and once you’ve been there you always want to get back again. Reynolds has taken Sutter to five NorCal Regional title games and is yet to win, so he and the team and community would obviously like a sixth chance.
Now, with the pandemic threatening to take the decision out of the hands of the Northern Section, it may mean the larger schools in the section that play in Division II and III may be forced to move to the state CIF calendar, while the smaller schools that play in Divisions IV and V may still try to pull it off and start next week.
“The EAL coaches and administrators agree our best shot at playing a complete season is to move with the state’s calendar,” Cooley said. “At this point I think D2 and D3 will go to January and we’ll have to wait and see what Divisions IV and V will do.”
That creates the possibility that football in the Northern Section will be played in two different seasons if it can be agreed upon. It also creates the possibility that some individual sports at the larger schools could try and start in the fall season.
While most of the smaller schools are in the remote parts of the CIF-NS, there are some like Biggs, just off Highway 99 southwest of Oroville and in Butte County, that are in jeopardy of being unable to start practicing in the near future.
“Our section has given us the opportunity to play in the fall based on getting approval from our county health department,” said Biggs head coach and Principal Tyler Rutledge.
“Being on the watch list in Butte County, our hope for playing in the fall is still there but looking less likely,” continued Rutledge. “Some of the smaller, mountain schools are making a push to play this fall with only other mountain schools but everyone is at the mercy of state and local health departments at this point.”
So if schools like Biggs can’t start practicing next week what is the plan?
“Our section said the latest we could start and still get in playoffs would be early October,” Rutledge responded. “Starting that late would obviously call for an abbreviated season. Maybe league only at that point.”
Things are certainly in flux in nine out of the 10 sections, but while those sections have several months to see how things shake out, the rubber will be meeting the road in the Northern Section next week with respect to a lot of both large and small schools to see if they can actually start their football season in the Fall.
Click here to listen to the Beyond the Game podcast with CIF Executive Director Ron Nocetti.
Click here to listen to the Beyond the Game podcast with Coaches Reynolds and Cooley.