California Interscholastic Federation Postpones Sports, Will It Impact Athletes and Other States?
Updated: Jan 25, 2021
By: Anthony Studnicka
As of today, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) has announced their 2020 fall and winter sports will be postponed. The modified schedule announced by the CIF anticipates that the beginning of most sports seasons will start in December 2020 or January 2021.
The CIF is a membership-based organization in which schools and school districts have opted-in or out of joining. Therefore, they have the authority to authorize whether or not sporting events will be held for their organizations. This impacts many of the top athletic programs in the state of California, as they are members of the CIF. The CIF has stated they are continuing to monitor the directives and guidelines released from the Governor's Office, the California Department of Education, the California Department of Public Health, and local county health departments and agencies. It’s also relevant to note that the CIF has the ability to allow activities to resume when they please.
As this decision came down just today, it will be interesting to see the impact this has on other states and amateur athletics nationwide. Additionally, this is not the first time in the last year California has been in the news for being an innovator and leader in the amateur sports realm. Last fall, California Governor Gavin Newsom was vocal about being an avid supporter of the amateur athlete name, image, and likeness movement; a movement which is continuously developing and is intended to grant amateur athletes the ability to profit off their name, image, and likeness.
While Californians may be rightfully boasting over their recent progress as serving amateur athletes and protecting their safety and interests, this most recent development may actually be twofold for the athletes. On one hand, this decision surely seems to be driven by protecting the health and safety of amateur athletes. On the other, there may be deeper implications if other states do not follow suit.
If other states elect to move forward with their athletic seasons, this may negatively impact top California athletes who are trying to be recruited to become a college athlete. Further, the timeline of a changed season may alter the way college coaches recruit. This leads to the question of whether California students may be left out of the recruiting mix. If this is potentially the case, could California families and students flee California to nearby states like Arizona, Nevada and Oregon if these states continue to offer sports in an attempt to have the athlete recruited? After all, an increased number of people have been granted opportunities to work remotely, at least for the time being, and it may be easier for families to relocate.
Alternatively, a legal battle may be on the forefront. While many schools are unable to offer sports this fall, will other athletic associations like the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) continue to offer them? If so, will California try to stop them? The California Governor’s office likely has the authority to impose social distancing restrictions that could make it difficult and nearly impossible for the AAU to operate.
While this decision to delay amateur sports may seem like the logical thing to on its face given the current climate and uncertainties surrounding Covid-19, there are deeper implications. Some states are clearly feeling the negative implications of the virus harder than others, and it will be interesting to see in the coming days how this announcement by the CIF may impact the decisions of other leaders and how other states respond.
Anthony is a third year student at Arizona State University pursuing a J.D. and a Master of Sports Law & Business. He is the creator of Long Run Sports.
 California Interscholastic Federation, CIF Statement Regarding 2020-21 Sports Calendar and Bylaw Modifications,California Interscholastic Federation (Jul. 20, 2020), https://cifstate.org/covid-19/7.20.20_release.  Id.  Chris Nichols, Yes, Gov. Newsom Has The Authority To Make Masks Mandatory In California, Legal Experts Say, Cap Radio (Jun. 24, 2020), https://www.capradio.org/articles/2020/06/24/yes-gov-newsom-has-the-authority-to-make-masks-mandatory-in-california-legal-experts-say/.