What you need to know about the return of high school sports

High school football is scheduled to return March 11 in San Diego County.
Scenes like this could be common again across San Diego County as early as March 11, when high school football is scheduled to return.

Questions and answers about football and other prep sports.


San Diego County is inching toward opening all high school and youth sports.

Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom said counties must be at or below 14 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents for outdoor play to resume.

In the newest weekly numbers released Feb. 23, San Diego County’s adjusted case rate was 15 per 100,000.

California Interscholastic Federation San Diego Section Commissioner Joe Heinz was disappointed that the county didn’t dip under 14, but he’s encouraged that the numbers are going down and anticipates that San Diego will be good to go next week.

With that in mind, here are some things to look for:

On Feb. 19, San Diego County Superior Court Judge Earl Maas granted a temporary restraining order allowing high school and youth sports to resume as long as they “follow the same or similar COVID-19 protocols used for competition in professional and/or collegiate sports within the county.” How does that affect a return to sports?

There are financial concerns about complying with professional and/or collegiate guidelines. Before the temporary restraining order, San Diego County high schools were required to comply with less-arduous and less-expensive COVID-19 procedures.

“Our biggest challenge, our biggest hurdle is getting over the COVID-19 testing policy,” Heinz said.

The CIF would follow collegiate guidelines that include an institution-specific “return to play” safety plan and regular periodic coronavirus testing of athletes and support staff.

“Under the guidelines, we have to have a plan specific to each school,” Heinz said. “That’s where the big disconnect is.”

What happens now?

Heinz said the CIF is working on a plan and getting guidance out to the schools, and teams will be back on the field as soon as the schools and/or school districts develop their own plan. That plan would include face coverings, coronavirus screening and testing, cleaning and disinfecting of facilities and social distancing.

The CIF is waiting for guidance to provide its member schools with any additional COVID-19 protocols that need to be put in place.

So when does football start?

Football practice can start Friday, Feb. 26, but there can be no contact until the case rate falls to 14. The first games in a six-game season are scheduled for March 11-13.

What will those schedules look like?

Schools will be assigned five league games but are free to schedule a sixth game to start the season. That game, however, must be against a team within the county.

What is the last day for football?

Football season needs to end by April 17 to allow for 90 days between seasons. Practice for the fall football season is set to begin in late July.

Will all schools field football teams?

There is talk that some schools are considering not playing. But nothing has been decided. Many of the large schools have said they will not field freshman teams, instead moving freshmen up to the junior varsity level with the stipulation that JV teams must be freshmen and sophomores only.

Will there be coronavirus testing?

Yes. As of now, all players and coaches must be tested weekly. And they must all be negative 24 hours before kickoff. All state and county guidelines must be followed.

Will that change?

Testing can go away if the county reaches seven cases per 100,000 residents.

Will there be football playoffs?

There will be no county, Southern California or state playoffs in football this season.

What other sports can start practice Feb. 26?

Soccer. Field hockey can start “soon,” according to the CIF.

What sports are going now?

Cross country is underway. Swimming is set for this week, along with tennis and golf.

Will there be championships in cross country and swimming?

Leagues can hold cross country championships. County swimming finals are scheduled for April 24.

What are the next outdoor sports to start?

Baseball, softball and lacrosse may start March 13. Water polo has been pushed back from March 13 to April 17.

What about indoor sports?

A few weeks ago, it didn’t look like there would be any indoor sports — basketball, volleyball, wrestling and badminton. Now there is hope for shortened seasons, perhaps as many as 18 games for basketball.

Will tournaments or invitationals be allowed?

Right now, no, because there cannot be multiple games at a site. But Heinz said the CIF is working on formats to permit tournament play.

Can athletes and coaches participate in more than one sport?

Yes, but one of those sports can’t be football.


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