Since the California Interscholastic Federation in July announced its sports calendar for the 2020-2021 season, Monticello Empire League Commissioner Joan Mumaugh has had her hands full. For the past five months she has been planning for what is supposed to be a compressed season beginning in late December and carrying through June.
With Solano County moving back into the purple COVID-19 tier on Monday, The Reporter reached out to Mumaugh to get her thoughts on that development as well as other issues, such as practices, testing and how to deal with COVID cases among student-athletes.
Here is some of what Mumaugh said. (Some answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.)
Now that Solano County is in the purple tier for COVID-19, does that change the plans for when official practices can begin for high school sports?
“The December 7 start date is still sitting there on the books. The Sac-Joaquin Section sent out a message Tuesday saying that at this point they are still thinking that might happen, but they’re working on some alternatives.
“So until we’re out of the purple, everyone continues to do what they’ve been doing, and that is just conditioning under the guidelines and restrictions that the county and the state have set out. So basically we’re in the same holding pattern that we’ve been in. It really is going to depend on what the counties, the sections, the CIF and the school districts say. They’re really the ones that are making all of the decisions as we move forward.”
What would happen if the start of practices gets pushed back?
“The Sac-Joaquin Section is trying to plan ahead in case practices get delayed. Can we still have season one (the first of the two compressed seasons)? It will be shortened, but could we still squeeze in those six sports that are designated as season one? Now with possibly the vaccines coming out, that’s maybe a little more positive information in terms of getting things moving again. That’s the hope that we all have.”
What is the league allowing teams to do now in terms of preparation?
“Just conditioning. The Section declared this period of time just as if it were summer, which means the schools are under whatever its Districts will allow. That’s basically conditioning in small groups just like when we started this in June and July and the teams take breaks from it and then they go again. So we’re in that phase still.”
In order for official practices to begin, does Solano County have to move out of the purple tier?
“Everything is really going to be dictated by the Solano County Public Health Department and the school districts. In order to practice you have to be able to have group contact. And right now with the way teams are doing conditioning there are small pods where there is no physical contact between the players. In terms of football, you can’t do exercises where you have the whole team out there or you can’t play a game of basketball where you’re passing the ball around. In this phase, it’s just small pods of students doing conditioning and preparation with conditioning equipment.”
What does the county health department base its decision on?
“They have their regulations and it is based basically on the COVID tier the county is in. Before we moved back to purple, before this massive infection started again, Governor Newson was working with CIF and with outside sporting organizations like Little League about what was going to be acceptable with the state health department. Well, that’s still on hold now until things clear up a little bit and we start moving in the right direction.”
If practices begin, will students have to be tested?
“We have not talked about that at our meetings with the school principals, so at this point I have not heard anything about that being a possibility. If that becomes something that is a regulation that is put out there as we move that direction, then certainly that would happen. But at this point, no, there are no regulations that say that student-athletes will have to be tested.”
If, for example, football starts, is there any plan concerning what to do if there are positive coronavirus cases?
“We’ve touched on that and that would probably mean quarantining that team and also taking into consideration how that is going to affect the rest of the league. We have a committee of three athletic directors, one from each district (Vacaville Unified, Travis Unified, Fairfield-Suisun Unified). Their charge is to decide how the schools will respond to situations that arise, such as coronavirus infections, so that all the schools are doing the same thing. That also applies to how we take care of spectators if there’s a limit. That helps the parents and each school not having to have that same conversation over and over. We’re trying to plan ahead. We’re trying to do something that will keep everyone in the league doing the same thing.”
Did the MEL need to be flexible when scheduling games?
“During the summertime when the CIF issued its revised schedule to begin in late December, the athletic directors at the MEL schools and myself met via Zoom a number of times. We already had schedules in place for this school year that were regular schedules. So we took those schedules and made the adjustments that we needed to make and we did look at trying to keep things from overlapping.
“Soccer and track, for example, are normally two different seasons. They both use the football stadium. We adjusted the schedules so that if a team was home in soccer then there wouldn’t be a track meet that day at that same site. And we had to move some of the schedules up because season two goes into the middle of June. With the exception of the Fairfield-Suisun District, the schools are out by then. We had softball games scheduled during graduation week and there was a big track meet scheduled then as well. We had to move those to accommodate the fact that we want our students to be done with their sports when they’re working on their graduation practices and all of the activities that go with that. There was quite some adjustment.”