CIF Northern Section creates sports calendar for 2020-21 season with big if

Ethan Hanson Redding Record SearchlightPublished 9:00 PM EDT Sep 16, 2020CIF Northern Section officials have a

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CIF Northern Section officials have announced high schools will have the option to restart their athletic programs in December or February as long as the state permits games.

The 2020 spring sports season ended in March due to California's stay-at-home order to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Wednesday's announcement is the first sign of movement from the section since state officials suspended competition in August following a surge in virus cases around the state as communities began to reopen their economies.

Although there is a sports schedule on the calendar, no games or competitions will be allowed until the state lifts health restrictions.

CIF Northern Section Commissioner Liz Kyle said via email that principals from various schools will choose either a fall sports season or a spring sports season. 

A fall sports schedule could combine football, basketball, volleyball and competitive cheer. Football programs would be allowed to start practicing on Dec. 15. Both football and volleyball would be eligible to compete in the state playoffs under the fall sports schedule.

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Sports that will stay in the fall in the 2020-21 season are cross country, skiing/snowboarding and competition cheer. Each of these sports will be eligible for a state title.

A spring sports schedule could combine football and volleyball with winter and spring sports like basketball, soccer, wrestling, baseball, softball, track and field, swimming and diving, golf and tennis into one season. Football practice would start Feb. 15. Basketball would be eligible to compete for a state title.

School principals will have until Sept. 25 to notify Kyle as to which season their sports programs will choose. Kyle said via email that schools would be reorganized into various leagues and divisions as needed.

"The calendar was developed by the board of managers and approved at today’s meeting," Kyle said. "The Northern Section member schools, leagues, and administrators worked together to meet the needs of all student athletes." 

Despite the section coming out with a schedule, Eastern Athletic League Commissioner Scott Fairley noted none of the games can be played without approval from Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Public Health.

"We're making all the plans in the Northern Section for high school sports to begin in January as is the entire state of California," Fairley said. "All we can do is put together schedules and compete when January comes around."

Fairley believes that with all 12 sections within California Interscholastic Federation wanting to start competition in January, it increases the likelihood of sports returning in 2021.

"Because the entire state of California is unified at the high school level of starting sports in January, it puts pressure on the state to get things started," Fairley said. "Of course no one can predict what the COVID virus is going to be like at that point and anything can happen. But with such a large group trying to move forward (to reopen sports), it's a very good possibility that will happen." 

Below are important dates to note for each sport based on whether they're placed in the fall or spring sports season. Dates are subject to change by CIF.

Fall season

  • Football (state qualifiers): Competition would start Jan. 7. League games would end March 19. Section final is on April 10. State final is on April 17. 
  • Basketball: Competition would start Jan. 4. League competition ends Feb. 19. Section final is on Feb. 27. No state final.
  • Football: Competition would start Jan. 7. League competition would end Feb. 19. Section final would conclude either March 5 or March 10.
  • Volleyball: Competition would start Dec. 28. League competition would end Feb. 25. Section final would be concluded by March 13. State final date is on March 20.
  • Competition cheer: Competition would start Dec. 28. League competition ends April 2. Section final date is April 10. State final is April 17.
  • Cross country: Competition would begin Dec. 28. Last date for league competition would end on March 9. Section final would end on March 11. State final would be March 11.
  • Skiing/snowboarding: Competition starts Jan. 4. State final would begin the last week of February.

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Spring sports

  • Football: Competition begins March 5. League competition ends April 23. Section final is May 8. No state final.
  • Basketball: Competition will start in either February or March. Teams that are designated as state qualifiers will have their section game on June 12 and will be eligible to play a state playoff game on June 19. Other section title games will commence on either April 23 or April 24.
  • Volleyball: Matches will begin on March 1. League competition will end on April 23. Section final is May 8. No state final.
  • Soccer: Games will begin in either February or March. Teams that are designated state qualifiers will play their section final on May 29. The state final will be June 5. Non-qualifiers will play a section title match April 23.
  • Wrestling: Meets and tournaments begin March 29. League competition ends May 22. Section final is June 5. State meet is June 12.
  • Track and Field: Competition will begin March 29. League competition ends June 2. Section final is June 11. State meet is June 26.

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  • Tennis: Matches start March 29. League competition ends May 4. Section final is May 29. State final is June 5.
  • Swimming and diving: Meets start March 29. League competition ends May 21. Section meet is on May 29. State meet is June 5.
  • Baseball: Based on each individual school, games will start either March 29 or May 7. Section title games will be June 19. State title game will be June 26.
  • Softball: Based on each individual school, games will start March 29 or May 7. Section final games will be June 19. State finals will be June 26.
  • Golf: Tournaments and matches will be on March 29. League competitions will end May 28. Section finals are scheduled for June 12. State tournament will be held June 23.

Ethan Hanson started working for the Redding Record Searchlight after four years with the Los Angeles Daily News as a freelancer. His coverage includes working the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament in South Bend, Indiana, and writing about the St. Louis Rams' move to Los Angeles with the Ventura County Star. He began his career as a play-by-play broadcaster for LA Pierce College from 2011-2017. Follow him on Twitter at @EthanAHanson_RS.