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By Jeff Pack
Staff Writer 

FUHS athletic director gives update, CIF commissioner answers questions on future of high school sports


Last updated 12/17/2020 at 11:29am

boys playing water polo

Village News/Shane Gibson photo

Fall sports, now called Season 1, like boys water polo, have been pushed back to an uncertain start date putting the entire season in jeopardy.

On Dec. 9. California Interscholastic Federation Commissioner Rob Wigod took questions from athletes and high school teams regarding yet another delay to the 2020-21 high school sports seasons.

The Q&A session came on the heels of the Dec. 3 news regarding the postponement of Season 1 Sports in the CIF statewide and within the CIF -San Diego Section.

"As of today, the Official Start Date for Season 1 Sports is on hold (TBD) until the point updated Youth Sports guidance is released from the California Department of Public Health," CIF-SDSS Commissioner Joe Heinz and Assistant Commissioner Todd Cassen, wrote in a memo. "Based upon the current guidance released from the state on Aug. 3, 2020, competitions are not allowed in youth sports (high school), all practices are limited to conditioning/skill improvement, and must remain within a stable cohort of 14 student-athletes or less."

Last week, Fallbrook Union High School Athletic Director Pat Walker shared a memo he sent to all FUHS coaches with some information about a meeting he had with North County Conference coaches and CIF-SS officials.

In addition to some notes about rule changes regarding how many sports an athlete will be allowed to participate in during any given season (3), and the maximum number of practice hours a student can participate in during a week (18), Walker announced that the district has "decided to close the campus entirely during the Christmas break. This translates into no club activities of any kind at our site between 12/19-1/3."

He also shared some more insight: "There were many ideas shared including my own in regards to ways we can give our kids an opportunity to play even if things keep getting pushed back – how to navigate the shortage of officials – NCC uniting and coming up with a plan of shorter league-only contests and mini-seasons of competition. Again, only discussion, but lots of great ideas were presented."

He said there will be a drop-dead date where CIF will make a decision on whether to cancel Season 1.

"I again appreciate all the work you are doing to help figure out your practice schedules and game schedules in this time of uncertainty and constant change," Walker told the coaches. "I believe it is critical to keep preparing like we are going to have our CIF seasons and keep adjusting to any new developments and news from the state.

"Thank you for being an awesome coaching staff. You all have been incredibly patient working through this difficult time."

When asked by an athlete whether he has had any direct conversation with Governor Gavin Newsom about a return to sport, Wigan said no.

"But I will tell you that we have been in consultation with the chief of staff in the governor's office. We have had some conversations with that office to make sure that they understood our plans and understand how much we wanted to bring high school sports back," he said. "And how we felt we could do it."

Another student asked why the state was so far behind in opening sports, considering other states have already begun competition.

"We have been in touch with a lot of our friends in the other states, specifically the states in the West, many of whom did have the opportunity to play some fall sports at the normal time frame that all sports take place," Wigan said. "They have had hiccups, they have problems, but they also were able to conduct their high school athletic programs in a healthy and safe way. I know it's frustrating for us here in California, we want the chance. That's really all we said, give us a chance and we believe that we could follow the rules appropriately and we can do it right, but unfortunately with what's been happening in our state and certainly has been happening over the last month or so it's been difficult to see us make any progress.

"Here in California we're waiting for our chance and I believe when we get that chance, we'll do it right and that's our plan to try to get that chance."

Wigand was asked to give a straight answer regarding a return to play.

"We are trying to do everything we can to advocate for the return-to-play for high school student-athletes and the way to do that is to continue to work with those in power and those in authority at the state and local level," he said. "There's been an ongoing effort every single day to provide information to provide everything that we can to hopefully get approval so that our schools can go forward again or schools are advocating for this at the CIF level. We are all trying, our parents, our student-athletes, our coaches, our athletic directors, our principals, we're on the same side.

"We all want to have our student-athletes back on campus and doing what they love to do and we love to watch them do, but we have to go through procedures and protocols to make sure that it is done in a safe and healthy way."

Wigand was asked when the drop-dead date might be regarding fall sports, or Season 1.

"We believe that at least until the middle of January, maybe even into early February, as it relates to fall sports, there would still be time and it would still be an opportunity to get back out there. I don't want to give up hope. I think we have some time in front of us, hopefully, we can see some progress made, and then we can start looking at things a little bit later in the future.

"I would think that as we get to the beginning of February, it would get to a point where we have to make some clear decisions on what the future would be and then don't forget we have a very ambitious list of spring sports and those would be kicking off at the earlier part of March or early to middle of March. Certainly, those are still on schedule and hopefully, they'll be able to start on time."

Wigand was also asked if they would consider extending the seasons into the summer months, after school lets out.

"The 2020-2021 school year, our calendar, runs through the middle of June and to go any further than that into either later June-July, that really impacts first and foremost our student-athletes," he said. "We're really impacting so many other things that would happen, serving our seniors, it would impact their next step beyond high school and even our underclass student-athletes would all be affected if we continued on into what into July or August.

"We certainly don't want to see those back up so close together that there really is no break at all."

Wigand said CIF feels for all the athletes.

"You are the ones that I think about and I know those that I work with think about every day," he said. "It's breaking our heart to see you go through what you're going through and we want that time frame to be as small as that time frame can be. It has been a while and it's going to be a little bit longer and we just hope that we can keep our focus, we can keep our eyes moving forward, we can keep playing.

"We will be back, I assure you, we will be back."

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at [email protected].


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