CIF Southern Section Announces Decision to Cancel Fall Playoff Format for Upcoming 2021 Season

Girl’s volleyball is one of the sports affected. | Courtesy photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

With the continuing threat that COVID-19 brings, a majority of Southern California’s high school athletics will be forced to not have competition following the regular season

By Jordan Green

The CIF Southern Section, which is the largest CIF section in the state of California, announced via Twitter Tuesday that they will be canceling championships and tournament play for all fall sports, including football, girl’s volleyball, water polo and cross country, due to the state’s restrictions amid the pandemic.

The decision, which followed guidelines set in place by the California Department of Public Health and other county health officials, was strategically made based on the recent spread of the virus seen in Southern California counties.

This announcement, however, does not mean fall sports are canceled entirely, as it is hoped regular seasons will continue. The CIF-SS gave specific dates on when certain seasons — such as football, women’s volleyball and others — should end if they do indeed take place, and they have provided schools additional weeks to help them prepare for their unconventional plans for the seasons ahead.

However, with Southern California currently under the state’s regional stay-at-home order  — meaning there is 0% ICU capacity due to widespread infection  — most fall sports are not yet given the clear on whether a season will occur or not. The only sports that have been cleared to have a season under CIF-SS regulation, so far, are track and field, cross country, golf and tennis. However, those efforts will only be seen if Governor Newsom’s stay-at-home order is lifted. Even so, the potential of championship play occurring at one single site in which student-athletes from all seven different counties join is “not realistic,” said Rob Wigod, the CIF-SS commissioner of athletics, in the report.

Wigod acknowledged the potential of section championships being canceled in mid-December, meaning the decision was certainly something that was previously discussed and contemplated by the CIF-SS for several weeks. And, most likely, the final decision did not come as a surprise to the 559 schools that will be impacted by the playoff pause.

“Of course we would be disappointed. And I would think our student-athletes, coaches and communities would be even more disappointed. It is a goal that they have, and we have; to make sure we provide the greatest experience we can for them,” Wigod said when considering the possibility of canceling championship brackets. “But if the alternative is that they don’t get to play at all, then that’s certainly not an alternative we support.”

While the section is taking precautions towards their yearly fall tournaments, it is important to note that they are only intervening in the contests they have immediate control of. The execution and details of their individual seasons will be up to the schools that are associated with the section, and the CIF-SS is highly encouraging schools to partake in athletics this season as long as they follow state guidelines.

The statement by the CIF-SS noted they have yet to make a decision regarding spring sports and their participation in Southern Section Championship tournaments. While they are planning to continue the spring season schedule that was released in July 2020, they won’t know if they can have championship play for those particular sports until early- or mid-April according to the update.

“These are extremely difficult times for everyone involved. This may be the darkest period we have experienced throughout the 10 months of the COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote Wigod. “Vaccines are arriving and inoculations are happening every day…With those developments, the conversations with the Governor’s Office, the California Department of Public Health and local health authorities regarding return to play can take on a different tone and real progress could potentially be made.”

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