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By Zach Cavanagh
The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), along with its 10 section commissioners, cancelled the spring sports section, regional and state playoffs on Friday, April 3, which, along with school districts continuing to extend closures, likely brings the end of the entire spring sports season.
“Based on the recent statements issued by Governor Newsom and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, regarding schools turning to distance learning for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, the (CIF) does not see an avenue for the spring sports season to continue,” CIF executive director Ron Nocetti said in a statement. “We understand this is disappointing for everyone involved in education-based athletics and empathize with our student-athletes and all who are impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.
“As always, our top priority is everyone’s ongoing health and safety during this challenging time, and we all look forward to the day when education-based athletics resumes.”
Spring sports consist of badminton, baseball, competitive sport cheerleading, boys golf, gymnastics, boys and girls lacrosse, softball, boys and girls swimming and diving, boys tennis, boys and girls track and field and boys volleyball.
“In arriving at this decision, I know that my colleagues and I thought about our student-athletes first,” CIF-Southern Section commissioner Rob Wigod said in a statement, “As in everything we do and our entire organization does, each and every day. … These are unprecedented times for all of us and the most difficult decision I have faced in my 20 years working for the CIF-Southern Section office.”
CIF initially delayed a decision on the spring sports championships in annual spring meeting with the state’s 10 section commissioners on March 17 and announced they would revisit the issue in a meeting on April 3.
“It is my sincere hope that there will be a renewed appreciation for high school athletic programs and how truly special they are,” Wigod said. “We now have the chance to reset our priorities and can utilize this opportunity to help us move forward in a positive way.”
CIF and Southern Section only control the fate of the spring sports playoffs and championships. The regular season is organized by the local schools and districts.
The Capistrano Unified School District closed its schools, which include San Clemente, Dana Hills and San Juan Hills high schools, on March 13. CUSD had initially closed schools through April 3 and then pushed the closure until May 1. On Thursday, April 2, CUSD extended its distance learning until further notice.
With the local area private schools, JSerra Catholic, St. Margaret’s Episcopal and Saddleback Valley Christian are distance learning until May 1. Capistrano Valley Christian is distance learning until further notice.
While the schools are closed, no events, athletic or otherwise, can take place. CUSD will make a further decision at a board meeting on April 15, but with the CIF announcement and the CUSD distance learning extension, the writing appears to be on the wall for the full cancellation of the spring sports season.
“It’s a bummer for these seniors they don’t get the opportunity to showcase their skills,” Dana Hills baseball coach and athletic director Tom Faris said. “This is heartbreaking for them, the coaches, the coaching staffs, and the entire Dana Hills community.”
Faris mentioned that a full cancellation would cause trouble logistically for the district schools, whose teams would lose a year of league-placement criteria for movement between the South Coast and Sea View Leagues. Faris also acknowledge that those concerns pale in comparison to the current situation at large.
Faris’ daughter, Katie Faris, is also a senior at San Clemente High School and a swimmer signed on to continue her education at Boise State.
Faris said that the disappointment runs high for the individual athletes, like Katie, that don’t get to compete for championships, and furthermore, may have to go on without a senior prom or graduation ceremony.
The CIF decision will also have ramifications into the summer, as section commissioners, athletic directors and coaches figure out how to handle these empty periods and eventually summer camps, tournaments, football passing leagues and the like.
The next step in the high school sports community is to see what changes if any are made to the summer schedule and then if these decisions continue on to affect fall sports, particularly the CIF-SS’ money-maker: football.
Until then, the spring season seems to be at a close as the latest coronavirus cancellation in the sports world.
Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a 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.