High School football’s return sees glimmer of hope

May 04 2021 05:30 pm

FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Last week, a group of Central Section high school football coaches held a press conference in front of Bullard High School, calling for the state’s COVID-19 guidelines for high school sports to be revised a little bit, to make it easier for kids to start playing high school football again across the state.

In a text to Sports Central Wednesday afternoon, Bullard head football coach Don Arax, who spoke at the press conference last week, said the statewide coaching association the Central Section coaches are affiliated with, did get a chance to meet with Governor Newsom recently.

“We’re seeing some movement at the state level,” texted Arax. “Representatives from the Golden State Coaches Association, who our local group aligned with, had a good meeting with the Governor last week. They expect to meet again this week. The problem we have is football is running out of time.”

According to the California Department of Public Health’s guidelines for high school sports, football will not be able to play games until their counties are in the “Orange” (Moderate) tier, which is two levels down from the “Purple” (Widespread) tier, which is the tier almost every county in the state currently finds itself in, including Fresno, Madera, Kings, Tulare and Merced counties.

The four tiers (Purple, Red, Orange, Yellow) are based on a county’s COVID-19 positivity rate,

In the “Purple” tier, cross country, golf, tennis, swim and dive, and track and field would be permitted. In the “Red” (Substantial) tier, lacrosse, baseball, and softball. In the “Orange” tier, badminton, football, soccer, boys volleyball, girls volleyball, and water polo. And in the “Yellow” (Minimal) tier, cheerleading (indoors), basketball and wrestling.

The Central Section football coaches think it’s reasonable to move football up from the “Orange” to the “Red” tier, and don’t understand why there needs to be an end date of April 17 for the football season. The group thinks during a pandemic, having more flexibility in the scheduling would make sense. The Valley coaches have proposed four different scheduling plans for the season – with one even proposing playing games into June. They say they could move back the start of next season if necessary.

The coaches also say their players are suffering personally and academically because of the lockdown, and the heaviest tolls have been on students of color and lower income families.

After going public with their thoughts last week, the Central Section coaches recently met with new Central Section commissioner Ryan Tos, but Tos was hesitant to make any changes to the Central Section football calendar.

“He was non-committal on pushing the (football) season back from the April 17 drop-dead date,” said Arax. “(He said) it comes down to the Governor.”

Arax is hopeful Central Valley school districts could do more to champion the cause of the coaches, but “have to this point stayed out of the fight, which is disappointing, to say the least.”

The Sac-Joaquin Section though, is making some changes, in an effort to increase the chances of playing high school sports this spring including football. The Section’s Board of Managers voted Tuesday to allow their schools to decide their sports schedules for the rest of the school season.

This will allow the Merced County schools flexibility with their dates, and their opponents. Those schools have reportedly been looking at abandoning their traditional leagues this sping (since they include teams from different counties) and playing an all-Merced County schedule.

“What we’re trying to do is create flexibility for this unprecedented time,” said Sac-Joaquin Section Commissioner Mike Garrison, via the Merced-Sun Star. “We want to find a way to get kids participating.”

The Sac-Joaquin Section announced all sports can begin on Feb. 1, as long as the given sport is in a state tier that is being allowed to resume at that point.

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