The California Interscholastic Federation announced on Monday morning that football season has been postponed until the winter.
New Mexico and Virginia had also announced postponement of football season, rescheduled to the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Other states will follow now,” promised Saint Louis football coach Ron Lee.
The San Jose Mercury News posted the announcement, noting that football state finals will be played in April and that basketball state finals will follow in June. Also, championships in most sports will be limited to regional (sectional) titles with no state tournaments.
California is one of 39 states that has reported increased numbers of coronavirus cases.
Hawaii has plateaued since a rise in cases two weeks ago. Visitors and returning residents are still under a 14-day quarantine upon arrival. The first day of classes in public schools is scheduled for Aug. 4.
The start date for football practices is set for Aug. 19, but it is subject to change. The Hawaii High School Athletic Association has established a ‘no-contact’ period until Aug. 18.
Postponing or switching seasons, moving sports deemed by the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) as “higher risk” to a later date has been discussed across the board, from the HHSAA committee to coaches. Punahou baseball coach Keenan Sue said that he would be fine if a “lower risk” sport like baseball was moved to the fall — rather than risk having spring sports cancelled for a second year in a row.
For months, Lee has been a proponent of moving football to the spring. He was the offensive coordinator under brother Cal Lee as the Crusaders won four consecutive Open Division state titles. This will be his first season as head coach since he led Kaiser to an Oahu Prep Bowl crown in 1979 and 10-2 record the following year.
“From the little I know as far as what they’re doing in their state, I would say it’s the right move. Now they have a plan. What are we waiting for? They say they’re moving the season back two weeks, I guarantee it’ll move past August and September,” said Lee, who began coaching in 1969. “It’s hard to plan when you don’t know when you’re starting. I was always for playing in the spring. Now you have a plan for practices, the protocol in trying to keep the kids safe. If we can go earlier (in the fall), great, but I haven’t heard any plans. We need leadership, somebody to say, here’s what we’re doing.”
The blueprint for safety in this pandemic could be to minimize risk, shrink game schedules and apply safety measures at every opportunity with sanitizing, disinfecting balls, equipment and facilities. Lee doesn’t believe it would be necessary to eliminate games.
“When you have just one game a week, the concern is actually practices. Every day they have contact. Our practices are set up for walkthroughs on Monday, half-pads on Tuesday, walkthroughs on Wednesday. We already have this set up. Cutting games won’t make a difference,” Lee said. “If we go 12 weeks, we don’t have to cut games. If you start in January, you’ve got ’til April, four months before school gets out. They don’t need to rush games. They need to sit down with trainers, coaches, everyone, for what we need to know.”
The recent shutdown at ‘Iolani, where an assistant football coach was diagnosed with COVID-19, is an example of taking all precautions and still not being able to avoid a positive test.
“I got Wendell’s guidelines and it is very good. He really broke it down,” Lee said of ‘Iolani coach/co-athletic director Wendell Look. “But what do you do when someone tests positive? You’ve got to take the kids into consideration and shut down. That’s the kind of stuff that needs to be discussed.”