The final domino left standing in the 2019-20 school year and sports season fell last week, with the Long Beach Unified School District’s announcement that campuses would remain closed through June 11, and the subsequent announcement that the CIF State office was canceling the remainder of the high school sports schedule.
“I’m making an announcement that all of us hopes we would not have to,” said LBUSD superintendent Chris Steinhauser at last week’s virtual Board of Education meeting. “The buildings will be closed for the rest of the year, but the learning will not be. This is a very sad situation. There will be more communications in the upcoming weeks on work and schedules, but we wanted to get this message out because we know how difficult it is for parents with childcare.”
The move came after State superintendent Tony Thurmond and governor Gavin Newsom made comments last week that they didn’t think schools would be able to resume in-person classes. While there was not technically a directive from the state office, the LBUSD and several other districts around the state quickly followed up with official announcements.
The comments from Thurmond and Newsom left no doubt that the CIF State office, which had previously declined to officially cancel the Spring season, would wipe the rest of this school year’s calendar, which they did on Friday.
“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,” said CIF State Executive Director Ron Nocetti in a release. “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.”
By far the biggest section in the state is the Southern Section, which includes all the local schools (as well as about half of California’s high school sports programs) and which is headed by Wilson alum and former Wilson, Lakewood, and Los Al coach Rob Wigod.
“These are unprecedented times for all of us,” said Wigod after the announcement, “And the most difficult situation I have faced in my 20 years working for the CIF Southern Section office.”
Wigod said the decision wasn’t made lightly.
“I realize that the goals, dreams and aspirations of student-athletes, coaches, athletic directors, principals, officials, and fans have been dashed by this decision,” he said. “There will be no way to replace the opportunities that a full and complete sport season would have afforded them, especially with all that they have invested in their efforts That weighed very heavily on the ultimate decision that we had to make.”
Wigod’s office also released a series of Q&As meant to address the complicated questions of eligibility that come with the current situation.
First, unlike at the NCAA level, there will be no “eligibility relief.” The CIF-SS talking points make it clear that current seniors will not be able to reclassify to be class of 2021 seniors unless there are other mitigating circumstances. Because students will be able to get credits from school while at home, they’re expected to graduate.
Also, many schools are likely to adopt a pass/fail system instead of the letter grade model for this semester. That could provide a snag given that athletes need a 2.0 GPA to play CIF-SS sports. Wigod’s talking points make it clear that it will be up to schools and school districts to decide whether athletes are eligible–i.e., whether a “pass” grade constitutes an equivalent C, D or other grade.
There are many other questions to be answered about how sports will resume and restart at all levels–but with the schedule officially wiped clear until the summer at the earliest, there will be plenty of time to answer those questions in the coming weeks.