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CIF Update: Central and Southern sections cancel playoffs for football, other fall sports
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CIF Update: Central and Southern sections cancel playoffs for football, other fall sports

Central and Southern sections deliver updates on high school sports amid coronavirus pandemic

The CIF Central and Southern sections canceled playoffs for football and other fall sports last week, noting that there's still hope those sports can be played this school year. 

In a statement Tuesday morning, Rob Wigod, the Southern Section commissioner, said the decision to cancel championships for fall sports was made because there "has not been enough progress made from the purple tier toward the orange tier for football, girls volleyball and boys/girls water polo to even begin competition this season."

Wigod added that there will not be sufficient time for those sports to conduct viable league play, which is necessary for sections to be able to conduct championships in those sports.

Holding a cross country championship for the Southern Section is not viable, Wigod said, with athletes from the seven Southern Section counties meeting and competing at a single location amid the coronavirus pandemic.  

The CIF Central Section released new recommended start dates for fall sports. These are viewed as the final dates that would allow for a four-week season. For instance, March 26 is the recommended start date for football, allowing for a four-week season ending on April 16/17. 

The sections, which all area schools belong to, set April 17 as the end date for football. That date allows about a three-month gap until the July period where football teams begin preparing for the fall 2021 season.

This schedule also leaves open the possibility of county playoffs or bowl games.

"We encourage leagues to consider leaving the last week of the season open for possible county playoffs or bowl games," Central Section commissioner Ryan Tos said in a statement released Tuesday morning. 

Wigod said, "We are not canceling the entire seasons for our fall sports, we are canceling the portion of the fall sports seasons that we have direct control over, Southern Section championships. Hopefully, the additional weeks now available during the fall sports season will be useful to our schools in the effort to have regular season and/or league competition in the time ahead."

Wigod added that the section will likely determine if spring sports championships are possible by mid-April.

Both sections set the following end dates for these sports: girls volleyball and water polo, March 20 and cross country, March 27. The CIF-SS set April 3 as the end date for 8-man football, which includes Valley Christian Academy's program. 

Tuesday's announcement cancels section playoffs and championships for these sports in the Southern and Central sections: football, cross country, girls volleyball, all water polo in the Central Section and boys water polo in the Southern Section.

"While this possibility has been discussed for some time, it is still a very difficult decision to make," Tos said in Tuesday's release. "While there may be changes in the future, the current (California Department of Public Health) guidance only allows competition between bordering counties, making section championship events impossible. This decision opens up additional dates for schools to schedule competition as CDPH guidance allows."

All Santa Maria Valley schools, except Valley Christian, moved to the Central Section two years ago, along with nearly all San Luis Obispo County high schools. Lompoc, Cabrillo, Santa Ynez and The Dunn School remained in the Southern Section with other Santa Barbara County schools. 

Currently, no practices or competitions are allowed in counties under stay-at-home orders, which Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties have been under since Gov. Gavin Newsom introduced regional orders in December. 

All high school sports have been shut down since March of 2020 at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Central Section said the start dates for swimming and diving, golf and tennis have been moved up to allow competition beginning on Feb. 15, if allowed by CDPH guidelines. Again, no CIF-sanctioned events can take place in counties under stay-at-home orders.

Cross country practices and competitions can begin as soon as Jan. 25 if a county is out of a stay-at-home order. 

Cross country, golf, tennis, swim and track and field are sports allowed in areas in the purple tier in the state's return-to-play guidelines. 

Lacrosse, baseball and softball are allowed in areas in the red tier. Baseball and softball could start by March 20 in the Central Section, with May 6 as a recommended last start-by-date.

Football, soccer, volleyball and water polo are allowed in the orange tier. Girls volleyball and water polo could start if the area was in the orange tier.

Basketball and wrestling, which are close-contact, indoor sports, are only allowed in the yellow tier. Basketball and wrestling are scheduled to start March 8.  

The sectional championships for spring sports are still currently scheduled. 

"While there are few certainties in life right now, I do think that we can all agree that there is not a perfect solution for the current issues related to high school sports," Tos said in Tuesday's updated guidelines.

Wigod added: "These are extremely difficult times for everyone involved. This may be the darkest period we have experienced throughout the 10 months of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we look ahead, the holidays are now behind us, although the surge from that time frame is still being felt and is hopefully close to ending. Vaccines are arriving and inoculations are happening every day. Perhaps we will see case rates, hospitalizations and deaths begin to decrease and relief will come to our health care system."

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