UPDATE: On Feb. 19, the state lifted its ban on outdoor youth sports, which can resume in California counties that have case rates of fewer than 14 new cases per day per 100,000 residents. San Mateo and Santa Clara counties meet the threshold. Read the updated guidance here.
A controversial decision by the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League Board of Managers to create a three-season scheduling structure for prep sports this spring — a model that drew the ire of some athletes and parents — will remain in place, the board affirmed at a special meeting Tuesday.
The meeting was called to address several issues with the league's decision to replace the California Interscholastic Federation's two-season format with the three-season model, a decision made by league athletic directors to allow as many athletes as possible, frosh-soph as well as varsity, an opportunity to perform.
Charlie Goldberg, a parent of a Palo Alto High School baseball player, filed a complaint that the board had violated the state's Brown Act, which regulates public meetings. He alleged the league did not allow sufficient time for public comment prior to making its decision. So on Tuesday, the board listened to public comment during the first hour of the meeting.
Objections to the three-season model were raised primarily by athletes, coaches and parents from traditional spring sports, who saw their seasons wiped out last March due to the coronavirus. Objections were also raised to the league's decision to not take part in any Central Coast Section or CIF playoffs, should they occur.
"Everyone lost a lot; spring athletes lost even more," said Paly baseball player Colin Thibault. "It's only fair we have as long of a season as possible. Senior season in high school produces memories that you just can't replicate. To lose both our junior and senior years is not right."
Season 3 sports — baseball, softball, track and field, basketball, wrestling, water polo, lacrosse, boys volleyball, boys golf, boys tennis and gymnastics — were given a five-week window for competition, from April 19 to May 28, which is quite a reduction from the normal four months of spring sports.
"Is it a shorter season? Yes, but at the end of the day we're trying to preserve all sports, not one at the expense of another," Palo Alto athletic director Nelson Gifford said.
Season 2 sports — football, soccer, girls volleyball, badminton, competitive cheer and field hockey — were given March 15 as a competition start date. A complicating factor is that football, soccer, girls volleyball and badminton are allowed only if a county is in the state's orange tier. Santa Clara County is currently in the more restrictive purple tier and quite likely will not reach the orange tier by March 29, the league's cancellation date for Season 2 sports. If those sports are canceled, the start date for Season 3 sports could be moved up.
Season 1 sports — cross country, swimming and diving, girls golf and girls tennis, sports that are allowed to take part while the purple tier is in effect — were given a Feb. 15 competition start date. Games had been scheduled for that date and then were called off until the board of managers meeting. Season 1 sports now have the go-ahead to proceed with their schedules, which run until March 26.
As various administrators at the meeting pointed out, having the seasons overlap is unfeasible due to several factors: the sharing of limited available facilities, individuals who coach multiple sports and the prohibition on athletes playing more than one sport at the same time.
The board tabled the discussion on the possibility of league teams' participation in the CCS playoffs until the next meeting, which will take place March 4 at 9 a.m. As Commissioner Brad Metheany pointed out, seven to 10 days need to be blocked off in order for teams to participate in the section playoffs. If five of the league's 14 teams in a given sport qualify for the playoffs, that would mean the other nine varsity teams would be idle, as well as the lower level frosh-soph teams. A possible solution would be to move up Season 3 schedules to an earlier starting date.
The CCS has already canceled the playoffs for all Season 1 sports as well as Season 2's football, girls volleyball, field hockey and competitive cheer and Season 3's water polo. The neighboring North Coast Section has canceled all section playoffs.
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.