Optimism continues to grow regarding the return of athletic events this fall. At a recent Board of Directors meeting of the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA), the governing body of the state’s junior college athletic programs, the board voted unanimously to move forward with a set of recommendations for how to bring sports back this fall.
The plan was formed by the CCCAA’s COVID-19 Working Group, and outlines three different scenarios for a safe return to sports based on guidelines from state health departments. A final determination will be announced by the CCCAA on July 17, confirming one of the three approved plans.
In a best-case scenario where the state is in Stage 4 of its re-opening plan, the CCCAA would move forward with the “Conventional Plan”, which would allow practices for all fall sports to begin on August 31. The first date of competition for seven of the eight fall sports would be September 11, with football playing its first contests on September 26. Both fall and spring sports seasons would be reduced to 75 percent of the regular schedule, resulting in eight regular season football games instead of 10, for example.
Another key change in the plan would move men’s and women’s basketball from a fall sport to a spring sport. Under the conventional plan, spring sports will be allowed to begin practicing on February 15 with the first date of competition on March 1. In both sports seasons, regional sports championships would be condensed to a one-week period following the regular season.
If health guidelines are stringent as of July 17–in stages 2 or 3 of reopening the economy–then the CCCAA would execute one of the more restrictive plans, referred to as the “Contact/Non-Contact” and “Contingency” plans. Both of those scenarios would see JUCO sports seasons reduced to 70 percent while pushing more sports to the spring portion of the schedule.
The more restrictive plans would make football, soccer, water polo, wrestling, and possibly women’s volleyball spring sports for the 2020-21 season. Under the most restrictive scenario, only cross country and women’s golf would be played during the fall, leaving 15 other sports to be played in the spring, with a half dozen sports beginning competition in early February and the rest beginning in early April.
“It is not a mandate to return to athletic competition, and I think the board was pretty clear about that, but it was a framework for individual schools and conferences with how they wish to proceed moving forward,” said Long Beach City College Interim Athletic Director Bill Husak, who was pleased with the board’s approval of the plan. “I think that’s key. So many college presidents, administrators, athletic directors were looking at each other saying ‘Where do we go now? What do we do now?’ And the CCCAA has said, ‘Here’s a path.’”
While it’s impossible for the CCCAA to provide a one-size-fits-all approach for its 114 colleges across the state, this was an important starting point for colleges to begin formulating an action plan for the upcoming athletic year. At LBCC specifically, there is an additional layer of oversight because the City of Long Beach has its own health department which may provide different guidelines than what’s given by Los Angeles County health officials.
“It is a complex situation that is multi-layered, but now one of the layers has been peeled back with this guidance has been offered,” Husak said. “I want to be optimistic about it, but I still think there’s so much uncertainty out there.”