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California high school sports forced into three-month delay because of coronavirus

The 2020 football season could be played as late as April 2021 in the Golden State.
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: OCT 25 Mater Dei at St. John Bosco
A high school football game between the Mater Dei Monarchs and the St. John Bosco Braves on Oct. 25, 2019, at Panish Family Stadium in Bellflower, Calif.Jevone Moore / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images file

The coronavirus pandemic prompted California to spike all fall high school sports on Monday, in favor of a new calendar that will compact all games, like football, into a few winter and spring months.

The California Interscholastic Federation, which regulates high school sports, won't stage any games in any sports until at least December, officials said.

The new calendar would mean football — a staple of fall Friday nights across America's largest state — would be played in the spring with the last game played no later than April 17, 2021, the CIF announced.

CIF Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod admitted the calendar is not ideal. But because so many California schools have said they're going to start the fall term with just online instruction, this was the only option short of canceling whole seasons.

"The alternative would be to just cancel an entire season or seasons, In other words, since the fall season couldn't hit in the traditional window of August through November and December, we would have announced the cancellation of the fall season today," Wigod told reporters Monday.

"I do not believe that anyone preferred that option."

California had been a model for controlling the coronavirus pandemic before a huge jump in cases in recent weeks.

The World Health Organization has set a target of 5 percent of positive tests and Californians are now coming in at a rate of 7.26 percent in the past seven days, according to Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine data.

Wigod said these plans are still best-case scenarios and if the pandemic does not improve, sports could still be canceled.

By December, Wigod said he hopes "local and state authorities have allowed for students to return to campuses."

Earlier this month, a slew of fall sports, including football, in New Mexico and Washington D.C. were moved to the spring.

Bruce Howard, a spokesman for the National Federation of State High School Associations, said he believes these will be the first sanctioned prep football games ever played in this new time frame.

"To my knowledge, it has always been played in the fall throughout history," he said.

A top educator in Texas said this month that gridiron action might not be possible this fall, even in the football-crazed Lone Star state.

Texas sports administrators could make an announcement on football by the end of the week.

Image: Devon Benn, Chris Grant
Southern University Jaguars running back Devon Benn (9) leaps over the tackle of Grambling State Tigers defensive back Chris Grant (35) during the 45th annual State Farm Bayou Classic game between the Southern Jaguars and the Grambling State Tigers at the Mercedes-Benz Super Dome in New Orleans on Nov. 24, 2018.Nick Tre. Smith / Icon Sportswire via AP file

With the virus still spreading throughout America, the viability of fall football is being called into question at every level of the competition.

Several hours after the California high school announcement on Monday, the Southwestern Athletic Conference — an affiliation of historically Black colleges and universities — announced it too was pushing its fall sports schedule to 2021.

Last week another HBCU league, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, also called off fall sports but didn't immediately commit to making up those autumn schedules in the spring.

The SWAC and MEAC compete in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), the second highest tier of the college game. The two leagues bypass traditional FCS playoffs and instead send their league champs to the Celebration Bowl in New Orleans.

SWAC Commissioner Charles McClelland said Monday he hopes the MEAC can also play spring football and possibly keep their bowl tradition alive: "The Southwestern Athletic Conference would be open to having discussions regarding potentially playing the Celebration Bowl in the spring."

The NFL plans to go forward with a 2020 season, but new doubts are continuing to mount.

The New York Jets and Giants, who both call New Jersey home, will not be allowed to play in front of any fans at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford to start the season, the clubs and Gov. Phil Murphy said on Monday.