SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - High school football and other outdoor contact sports like soccer could return to action as soon as February 26, after the California Department of Public Health updated its guidelines on Friday.
The update allows outdoor high-contact high school and youth sports to be played in the more restrictive red and purple tiers in counties with a case rate equal to or less than 14 per 100,000.
In high school football and water polo--both high-contact sports--regular weekly testing for the coronavirus must be done for all of the athletes and coaches.
CIF Southern Section shared an updated infographic on social media displaying the health guidance changes.
Local counties still need to adopt these guidelines and school districts also need to approve them.
Football had been only allowed in the moderate orange tier until Friday's announcement.
CIF-SS also tweeted a more specific timeline for when sports may be able to return to practices and games, depending on when counties meet the new case rate threshold.
CIF Southern Section Update: February 19, 2021 pic.twitter.com/hUbuOcJXNR— CIF Southern Section (@CIFSS) February 19, 2021
Athletic directors from Santa Barbara, San Marcos and Dos Pueblos High Schools met in person on Friday on the San Marcos campus to begin to discuss the details of more sports restarting, before virtually chatting with ADs from the other Channel League schools.
“There might be a light at the end of the tunnel for some of our sports,” said Dons athletic director Todd Heil. “While there’s optimism, there also has to be a sense of realism.”
Along with figuring out testing logistics and waiting for the COVID case rate to fall, new complications will emerge. There could be an unprecedented amount of sports playing outside of their typical seasons and sharing facilities.
Quickly-approaching, previously-established CIF season end dates are also a complication. The CIF end date for the football season is April 17, but other sports are set to end sooner.
“We’re telling everyone right now to be patient right now, to let us work through the details,” Heil said. “And as soon as we get those more details, we’ll get them out to the families.”
Bishop Diego junior Anthony Villa is excited for the possibility of playing football games, even if the season is significantly shortened and played with COVID-19 guidelines.
“It might be a little rough, there might be some things to tweak out at the beginning,” Villa said. “But I see it as a win to be able to play football… get to go out there for a few more times with the senior boys that I’ve been playing with for so long.”
San Luis Obispo County Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham responded to the news with a statement on Friday:
"Our kids have been on the sidelines for nearly a year. Players, parents, and coaches have been asking the state for months for revised guidelines that would allow kids to safely participate in sporting events. Today's changes, while an improvement on the status quo, should have been made months ago.
"That said, I am glad to see a step in the right direction. This may not be a touchdown, but it is positive yardage."Statement from Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham
The guidance also applies to any community-organized adult or youth sports.
Indoor contact sports like basketball and wrestling have not been included in the updated guidance and still must wait until counties reach the minimal yellow tier.