By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
Since the California Interscholastic Federation announced on July 20 that the 2020-2021 high school sports season will be delayed until December, athletic directors throughout the Southern and City Sections have been collaborating to find opponents to fill open dates in their schedules in anticipation that the revised athletic calendar proceeds as planned.
“Hopeful optimism” was the term City Sports Information Director Dick Dornan used when interviewed by Southern California radio broadcaster Randy Rosenbloom and host Rich Estrella for the SoCal Prep Report on July 21.
“We have a long way to go, obviously, but at least a plan is in place between now and then and I would say a fair time would be around Thanksgiving. We’ll know a lot better where we are in regards to the pandemic and how that will affect high school sports. I’m optimistic that we can get there but ultimately we have to get the approval from the LA County Health Department to even participate in sport and with us being part of LA County we need LA Unified to be on board to have sports in December. If we get those two approvals we’re going forward with a green light and let’s have some fun but if either one says no we don’t know what the next step will be. At this point, it’s one day at a time. The calendar is set but we have to hope our student athletes are in school by Labor Day or by October 1 because education is everything.”
Echoing Dornan’s positive outlook was Chuck Price, son of longtime prep football coach Ron Price, who led Palisades High to a 44-15 record in his five seasons at the helm from 1996-2000.
“Football in my mind is a cataylst to taking these teenagers and building young men,” said Chuck, who works for the LA Wildcats of the XFL and who was on his dad’s staff at Palisades. “I remain optimistic because I know how important football is as a building block in our community.”
Asked if Ron, who has been coaching for seven decades and is currently an offensive line coach at Fairfax High, has any trepidation about being on the sideline if and when football resumes, his son answered an emphatic ‘No.’
“Zero,” Chuck said. “Dad is dying to get out there. Most football people are. He turns 84 in November so he’s a guy who, by everything you hear, is at high risk, but at the end of the day I don’t think he has one fear about it. He fears the next day because it’s another day he’s not out there coaching. That’s what he lives for. With a mask on he could get out there every day and make a difference in a lot of players’ lives.”
Estrella cited the impact that the shortened schedule might have on the small schools, where many athletes play multiple sports.
“One of the goals the commissioners had was to recognize every sport and give them opportunity,’ Dornan said. “That’s why they divided it into two seasons, fall and spring, so that the overlap wouldn’t be so severe for the multi-sport athlete. Yes, there is some overlap of a week or two weeks, but kids will have a chance to do both sports or as many sports as possible. The biggest challenge for charter schools—particular the bigger ones—will be facilities. So many of our charter schools use LA City Park and Rec gyms and finding enough time in sports like boys and girls volleyball that are in the same season will be tough.”
The City Section released its own calendar (fall sports practice can begin Dec. 14 and games in all sports except football can begin the day after Christmas) shortly after the state office made its announcement and Dornan has noticed an uptick in school coaches and administrators reaching out to one another over social media platforms to schedule contests.
“I think football will be the first sport to have everything lined up because it’s only 10 games,” he reasoned. “Most schools are looking for three to five nonleague games and the rest of the schedule is league. For the other sports it’s going to take time. We have a league commissioners meeting coming up soon where they’ll create the league schedule and schools can work around that with nonleague contests and tournaments. So by around Labor Day we should have an idea what schedules may look like in the fall. We have to give them all of August to put together schedules knowing the lack of facilities and schools might drop out of certain programs or drop certain levels like frosh/soph and JV. Everything is being scrunched together with only two seasons from December to June and with the fall season in particular from December to February, so maybe by September we’ll have an idea and by October we’ll have schedules done. Then, it’s just a matter of whether or not they come to fruition in December and January.”
Dornan added a primary topic of discussion for the advisory committee will be having football games on Thursdays or Saturdays instead of Friday nights in order to alleviate field space issues and to give officials more opportunities.
“I definitely think Thursdays or even Saturdays at 1 o’clock are options,” he said. “Not Monday, because that’s usually only in the case of an emergency like we’ve had in the past few years with a fire or something. Playing two games in one week is not healthy for high school football players. I could see Thursday and Saturday but we’ll need cooperation with LAUSD for busing and to use the facility on Saturday in order to get the officials there. Also, playing on a Friday night in January and February it gets cold. I know we’re not the Midwest, but it still gets chilly out here, so teams may want to move their games to, say, 1 o’clock on a Saturday. Ultimately, it’ll be up to the two schools that are scheduled to play to make that happen. When you look at the calendar from January to June it’s going to be the craziest of times but, in my humble opinion, it’ll be the best of times because that means we’re back, we’re playing athletics and that’s what we’re all here for.”
Dornan reiterated that the City calendar is a “living document,” meaning it is subject to change at any time based on the COVID-19 pandemic and decisions made by state and county health officials.
The City Section, headquartered in Granada Hills, consists of 156 schools, including 88 charters like Palisades. With almost 600 schools, the Southern Section is the largest in the state and stretches from San Luis Obispo to the San Diego County line. Many Palisades athletes play for Southern Section private schools like Harvard-Westlake, Loyola, Brentwood, Marymount, Notre Dame, Windward, Marlborough, Marymount and Oaks Christian.
Rosenbloom asked why boys and girls basketball have been postponed until the spring season, meaning even if schedules hold, City finals will not be until June 9-12 and state championships will not be until June 18-19. Normally the basketball season lasts from mid-November to early March.
“One thing the commissioners did was identify each sport as low, medium or high risk,” Dornan said. “Basketball and wrestling are the highest because it’s body-to-body contact. Football is right there too, but basketball and wrestling are indoors where this virus really thrives so they felt it best to prolong those two sports as much as they can and to allow boys and girls volleyball to co-exist and have their own gym time.”
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