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By Zach Cavanagh
For the first time since its mid-March shutdown due to coronavirus, high school sports received official direction on its return to competitive play.
The CIF State and CIF-Southern Section offices announced their revised 2020-21 calendars on Monday, July 20, which set the new beginning of the high school sports year in late December 2020, football games starting in January 2021, the combination of the winter and spring seasons and a spring timeline that stretches until the end of June 2021.
CIF-SS will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. on Monday on this revised calendar that can be viewed live on YouTube.
The CIF-SS calendar will be officially voted on as an Emergency Action Item at the section’s next scheduled CIF-Southern Section Executive Committee meeting on Aug. 13.
Football, the section’s big-money sport, will return to practices on Dec. 14 with the season opening in Week 1 on Jan. 8, 2021. The football season will not be shortened and will run its full 64-day length regular season to Week 10 on March 12.
CIF-SS standardized the length of its seasons to 72 days to try and eliminate as much overlap as possible. In sports like football (64 days) and girls volleyball (57 days) with less than 72 days, the season length remains unchanged. Sports with longer seasons like soccer (83 days) and basketball (81 days).
CIF-SS football playoffs open on March 19 with the CIF-SS championships on April 9-10. CIF State has eliminated the regional rounds for this season and will play the state championships on April 16-17.
CIF-SS commissioner Rob Wigod said the calendar includes “full section championship experiences” with no changes to the number of playoff divisions or guaranteed playoff entries.
Boys volleyball shifts from the spring to the fall season and will be the first sport to return to games on Dec. 12. Boys volleyball will run concurrently and share gym space with girls volleyball, which begins games on Dec. 19.
Girls water polo has also shifted from the winter season to the fall season to play alongside boys water polo. Boys water polo opens games on Dec. 21 with the girls following on Dec. 28. Like volleyball in the gym, the water polo teams will share space in the pool, and in some instances, both sports share coaching staffs.
Cross country will open on Dec. 26 with the CIF-SS championships on March 20, 2021 and CIF state on March 27. These dates incur the roughest overlap of seasons for athletes and coaches, as the track and field seasons open on March 20. The section’s best distance runners could be in full competition mode from Dec. 26 to the CIF-SS championships on June 12 and CIF State championships on June 26.
Field space will be at a premium in the spring with boys and girls soccer opening on Feb. 27 and playing through the CIF-SS finals on May 29 and boys and girls lacrosse opening on March 12 through the CIF-SS finals on June 12. Both starts are just ahead of track and field’s March 20 start.
Girls tennis shifts from the fall and will be the first sport to open the spring season on Feb. 22, with boys tennis following on March 1. Tennis opens another potential issue of sharing court space and coaching staffs. As does boys and girls golf, which with girls golf shifting from fall to spring, will run concurrently starting March 20.
Wrestling will begin on March 5, and boys and girls basketball will begin on March 12 – more than a full calendar year after most teams final games of last season.
Baseball and softball open their seasons on March 19 with the first ever CIF State regionals in those sports being played on June 26, the last day of 2020-21 competition.
Swimming opens on March 13, and competitive sport cheer is the last CIF-SS sports to open on March 27.
In addition to and due to the calendar changes, the CIF State office also decided to temporarily suspend Bylaws 600-605, which will now allow student-athletes to participate on outside teams, like club and travel teams, at the same time as they play for their school teams. Local schools, districts, leagues and sections can make their own rule regarding this, but the CIF-SS looks to be following with the CIF State guidance.
This is a developing story.
Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a multiple California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.