Rob Wigod, the Southern Section Commissioner of Athletics, held a lengthy detailed news conference Monday afternoon following the release of State and Section revised athletic calendars for 2020-21.
Wigod addressed dozens of questions from media across Southern California, adding depth, detail and clarity in each response.
Below is an edited transcript from Monday's sessions.
ROB WIGOD, Southern Section Commissioner of Athletics
I believe our student athletes will be supportive of this plan. I think they will be appreciative of the fact that we have no plans to cancel seasons or sports. While, no doubt, there will have to be difficult choices made by everyone to make this work, I think our young people know that it is preferable to have an opportunity to at least make a choice than to not have a chance to do that at all, which is what happened to us all last April when the spring sports seasons were canceled.
It will be vitally important that we adults do everything we can to come through for our student athletes and show them a unified front going forward. Our student-athletes have had enough negativity over the last few months. They are looking to us to bring them positive news for the future.
If we had made this announcement on July 1, it would probably be different than it was today. We have obviously seen what's happened over the last several weeks (with the spike in coronavirus cases around the state), especially in the impact it has made. That's where we really started to focus on going to two seasons (condensing from the traditional three) and how we might be able to get all of our sports in that way versus three seasons that we might have been looking at and especially looking at potential sports for the fall. Now with schools not allowing students back on campus, at least for the time being, we didn't think that was going to be very possible in the fall.
FULL SPORTS SEASONS
As we started to focus more on two seasons, we realized that it was going to be more possible to have a full regular season in all the sports. ... The student-athletes and coaches and everyone involved in all of our sports are going to be putting in a lot of time and effort and so we felt if there was a way to preserve the regular seasons as much as possible and give them the full experience, we really wanted to go in that direction.
ATHLETICS FOR SCHOOLS IN DISTANCE LEARNING OR HYBRID MODELS
It will be up to individual schools, school districts, private schools to decide if they want to bring their athletic teams back if they have distance learning or some kind of hybrid model
MOVING XC INTO WINTER MONTHS
We felt there wasn't any options for fall sports in the traditional fall window. One of our big concerns and one of the things we knew we needed to address was certain natural partnerships: Cross country and track, swimming and water polo. Those kinds of sports where some of the same student athletes participate in both. The decision was keeping track and field in the "Spring", cross country obviously would need to be in the "Fall" in this two-season format. We wanted to make sure the cross country athletes certainly had the opportunity to participate in track and field as well.
CONDENSING THE SCHEDULE FURTHER IF HEALTH CONCERNS CONTINUE OR SPIKE
We certainly have allowed for enough time to hopefully get our schools back on campus and the ability for our student-athletes to have a semi-normal lead-up, or whatever you want to call it, in preparation for their seasons. ... What we probably would be looking at as we got closer to (December) and the implementation of this calendar is to see if that's even possible. If the local and state health authorities have allowed for our students to return to campus? Have our schools been able to get back up and running? At that point, we would have a decision to make. ... The key element is viable league play. There has to be viable league play if we're able to go forward from there. Though at some point if we're not able to have viable league play for the fall season that we have planned, then we would have to say that season would be canceled. Then we would have to focus on our next season beginning in February, early March. Hopefully, get to that point and be able to launch those sports at that time. And then we would run through the same scenario. If we get to March, still in the same position where it's not feasible to be back on campuses or programs to resume, we'd look at when viable league play could still be conducted by the time we got to that point. If not, we'd have to cancel the spring at that time.
EXTENDING SUMMERTIME RULES
The high schools, under Summertime Rules, are under their principal's authority. If their high school principal wants to allow them -- again, based on health and safety protocols and guidelines from our health authorities and the schools, school districts, private schools have had their students back (on campus) and are able to resume their programs -- they would have the opportunity to compete as school teams during that Summertimes Rules portion of the school year. During the school year normally, schools cannot represent themselves as school teams during the school year outside their season of sport. We believe that by extending that Summertime Rule provision, it gave the school the flexibility to try to do anything and everything they can, provided they are allowed (by health authorities) to do it. We thought that would be a positive and something the schools would appreciate in that they'd have control over how to manage those months leading up to the high school seasons. And even to the point where if they wanted to schedule tournaments, offseason leagues, other kinds of activities that they're allowed, they'll have (the flexibility) to do it.
Even some of these tournaments that people are used to (basketball tournaments that happen over winter break) the possibility still exists that those can happen.
TRADITIONAL STATE REGIONALS
The specific details from the State office have not come out but the understanding in what they released is that regional in state championship competition will be within one week.
GOVERNOR'S ORDER THAT CLOSED SCHOOLS
I want to credit CIF Executive Director Ron Nocetti. When there was a discussion earlier about a potential calendar ... I thought did an effective job of explaining to everyone that we should try to (hold off) as long as we can before we made a decision. I think what happened over the last few days, at the end of last week with the Governor's decision, actually reinforced what we had come to agreement on. Once the Governor announced what he announced on Friday, I think all of us believed that (it) actually reinforced the direction we were heading in.
PRACTICE START DATES
One thing about our section, with the exception of football, we have never identified practice dates. ... (Schools) have the ability to do as they pretty much please with the direction of their high school principal. We won't be identifying specific start dates for any of the sports except for football because of certain (minimum practice) rules specific to football.
ADDITIONAL CHANGES TO THE CALENDAR
This plan remains in place now going forward. ... If we weren't going to be able to (keep the previous calendar) I was very, very adamant about that we have to announce a calendar that we will try to implement. I didn't want to say today, 'Well, we can't do what you expected up to this point and we'll come back and see you in six weeks.' That wasn't going to serve anyone. ... We're not going to be revising it or putting in different dates going forward for awhile now. We hope that this will give our schools a chance to start making their plans and juggling all the different things they need to juggle to make it work. We'll stay on this course until we get into the late-November, early-December time frame to see exactly where we are.
COVID-19 TESTING PROTOCOL
Those aren't really going to be CIF issues. We're not going to be involved in the testing protocols or requirements. ... Those are still going to be schools, school districts and private schools decisions following their local, county, state health authorities. ... We have seven counties in the Southern Section, within our footprint. What may be happening to one county is potentially different than another. Right now, they're all pretty much in the same boat. As we move closer to getting students back on campus for academics and hopefully bringing the athletic teams next, those testing protocols and procedures and reactions to positive tests or steps taken in that regard, that's going to be up to those folks. That's not going to be a CIF issue.
CONDENSING THREE SEASONS INTO TWO
Everyone really hoped we could find a way to deliver fall, winter and spring sports to the 2020-2021 school year. It was devastating to cancel in the spring of 2020 and the ramifications of that are still being felt and they will probably always be felt. That was a very, very loud and clear message that all of our stakeholders were saying to us, let's find a way. Let's find a way to do this. Let's try to keep all of our sports alive. Let's try to give the student-athletes coming forward something positive.
RULES THAT CHANGED
The adjustments that have been made, such as Financial Hardship, the extension of Summertime Rules, the suspension of Rule 600, those are for this school year. They will expire at the end of this school year (June 30, 2021).
That's a rule that our schools have put in place. If they want to remove that rule from our bylaws, they have every mechanism available to them to do it. I will say to you, the last time it was brought up for vote at the CIF Federated Council, the vote was 114-23 to keep Rule 600. Executive Director Nocetti, I think in a good move and a smart move and a proactive move, has said, 'if we're going to move our seasons that drastically, than we certainly couldn't expect the offseason club travel activities to be prohibited for our student athletes.' With that in mind, (Rule 600) is going to be suspended for this school year. But it will be back in place afterward (unless member schools across the state decide to vote it out).
CHALLENGES OF SIMULTANEOUS COMPETITION FOR HS AND CLUB (suspension of Rule 600)
We just felt that it was unrealistic if we were going to have such a drastic change to our sports calendars and then turn right back around and say 'But you cannot participate in contests beyond high school teams during the two seasons of sport that we have.' We just didn't feel that was a reasonable expectation.
I think we've been very clear now where we're going in the direction with high school sports. But we don't operate in a vacuum. If club and travel and other organizations, if ever we are hopefully together on something, it would be over these next few months. Because if the club and travel activities and many of the things that are going on, go on uninterrupted and students are out there and they're traveling all over and there's all kinds of interactions, I'm not sure that's going to be in everyone's best interest going into mid-December-through-June calendar that we have. If anything, I would call upon our travel and club and outside organizations that work with us, we're making an accommodation so that our students can do both, and I sure hope that there's a way that maybe they'll consider getting on the same page with us. If not, everything that they may want to do, may be shut down as well as we'll be shut down and none of us will be able to proceed.
We've never done this before (suspension of Rule 600). This is uncharted territory. We'll have to see how this plays out. (This is) the first time in my years, and anybody's memory, that the actual Rule 600 is going to be waived. There's a new opportunity out there to see what that means.
NORTHERN SECTION DECISION TO STICK TO ITS TRADITIONAL CALENDAR
What's happening up there (regarding the impact of COVID-19) isn't necessarily what's happening here. ... (Athletes are allowed) one season of sport in a particular school year. They have a right to make that decision.
QUICK HIT ITEMS
* Approvals for athletes to compete under Summertime Rules is under the control of the high school principal.
*XC athletes could compete unattached at a national meet like Foot Locker (Regionals/Nationals) before their high school season with approval of principal and OK by health authorities.
* Fans, media in the stands/at events is a local decision by the schools.
DECISIONS REGARDING CALENDAR DATES AND NON-CONTACT SPORTS IN THE FALL
We want to keep it as alive as we can keep it. ... The worst thing in the world would be to get them started and then have to pull them back and say, 'No, we have to shut you down.' ... About July 1 ... it might have been something that we were more looking to have happen. We've seen in this month alone, just how much that has changed (with the spike in COVID-19 cases). And the biggest thing everyone has to realize is what changed is the schools and the schools not being open and not having students on campus. ... Yes, maybe our girls golfers can get around a golf course right now but they're not on campus, they won't be at school ... the game changer in all of this is the ability for our schools to be open for academics first. Without that in the foreseeable future, I think you can all see why we're in the position we're in today.