The California Interscholastic Federation said it will determine by July 20 if the 2020 fall sports season will be conducted as scheduled, the governing body of high school sports in the state announced Friday.

The date was set following three days of video conference meetings with the 10 section commissioners and CIF state officials.

If sports can’t start on schedule due to public health and safety concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, the CIF said it is prepared to offer alternative calendars.

“The message I want to convey to all of you is that we are totally committed to having fall, winter and spring sports during the 2020-21 school year,” CIF Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod wrote in a press release. “I want to remind you that the decisions to reopen our schools, and subsequently bring back athletic programs after they have started their academic year, will be made entirely by each local superintendent/school board from a public school district or each private school head of school/school board who have the authority to make those decisions.

“I am sure they will follow the recommendations of state and local health authorities in arriving at the decisions that are in the best interests of their students and school communities.”

Todd Heil, the incoming athletic director at Santa Barbara High, said the July 20 announcement wasn’t a surprise, given the challenges brought about by the pandemic.

“Given that information, it’s hard to envision the fall sports starting as previously scheduled in late August,” he said. “Once you start to move the calendar, you’re also probably looking at a reduction in games scheduled in order to get all three seasons in.

“I think at this point everyone should understand that high school athletics, just like classes, are not going to have a traditional look to them this coming school year. What’s most important is doing everything we can within the health guidelines to hopefully allow our student-athletes to have a season, even if it’s delayed and truncated.

“Our coaches and student-athletes want to get back on campus and get back together, but safely. They all miss the camaraderie that comes with athletics.”

CIF Statement Regarding 2020 Fall Sports and Return to Physical Activity/Training

— CIF State (@CIFState) June 12, 2020

The CIF also released guidelines for summer conditioning workouts, which are based off the National Federation of High Schools’ recommendations for returning to play.

The reopening of workouts will be done in two phases. The first phase focuses on individual skill development and conditioning. Phase two will consist of modified team practices with no contact.  Workouts should be conducted in pods of students, with the same 5-10 students working out together weekly to limit overall exposures. Smaller pods can be utilized for weight training.

Social distancing of six feet between each individual must be followed at all times. Local county guidelines must be followed

In addition, the CIF offered school districts the option of granting a 30-day temporary waiver of the physical-exam requirement because families may experience delays in getting access to a doctor during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also said that it will allow hardship waivers for transfers who have to change schools for financial reasons related to COVID-19.

If granted, the waiver, which requires documentation, would give a student-athlete immediate athletic eligibility in the fall.

There are several schools throughout the state that have started modified conditioning workouts for football or have announced start dates.

Abe Jahadhmy of San Marcos, Dan Feldhaus of Dos Pueblos and Heil, the three athletic directors from the Santa Barbara Unified School District, are working with assistant superintendent Shawn Carey on a plan to allow student athletes to return to physical activity safely.

They’ll follow NFHS and CIF guidelines.

CIF Southern Section Update – June 12, 2020


— CIF Southern Section (@CIFSS) June 12, 2020

“Once we get those documents, we’re going to try to put together a basic proposal,” Feldhaus said. “The Oxnard Unified District has a proposal going forward. It pretty much follows the NFHS guidelines — no equipment, no locker room availability, work with small groups, washing hands, all those guidelines.”

He said the community of ADs in the Tri-counties are asking to share proposals on how to conduct safe practices.

“They’re all on the same page, and trying to figure out what to do,” he said.

Feldhaus is anticipating the district’s proposal for a Phase One reopening won’t be until the second or third week of July.

“We’ll be working with the coaches to nail down the specifics for each sport,” Feldhaus said. “You can imagine cross country’s phase one reopening is going to be different from football or water polo. I’ve been talking to my coaches and telling them: “Be thinking about what this looks like. Here are the guidelines, and what do envision practice or reopening to look like for your sport?”’

Carpinteria High AD Pat Cooney said his biggest concern is the “local schools work in concert to develop the same plan.

“It will be very uncomfortable to see the unraveling of athletics programs if schools respond differently to state and county guidance. If the schools within Santa Barbara County and Ventura County reopen with similar plans, then we should see recovery of high-quality programs for our melting pot of students. CIF-SS member schools could continue to participate on a level playing field.

“If we see a drastic difference between reopening plans, we would likely see families with the most resources transferring to schools that meet their desired plan. We could anticipate a widening of the gap between the “haves” and “have nots.”

Cooney said he’s in constant contact with his principal and the superintendent in Carpinteria, and his coaches are ready for Plan A for summer programs and fall start up.

In the every changing scenarios during the pandemic, Cooney appreciates the flexibility of his coaches.

“They are also nimble enough to adjust to what the county and district dictate.”

— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.