The California Interscholastic Federation, the governing body in the state for high school sports, announced Monday that the earliest its football season and the remainder of fall sports will start is December 2020. The move could have a major impact on college football recruiting and set a precedent for other states going forward amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) has determined, in collaboration with our 10 Sections, that education-based athletics for the 2020-2021 school year will begin with a modified season of sport schedule (see below for 2020-21 sports calendar)," the statement read. "Our calendar reflects the season for each CIF sport and the last date for Section Championships and Regional/State Championships in those sports where a Regional/State Championship is currently offered. Following this announcement, each CIF Section Office will release their own calendar to reflect regular season starting and ending dates and Section playoffs. It is anticipated that most Section start dates will commence in December 2020 or January 2021."
California currently has 31 high school players in the class of 2021 with a four-star ranking or better in the 247Sports Composite rankings and dozens more who are considered three-star prospects. Those players will now be forced to choose between playing their senior season of high school football or enrolling early at the college they choose. In a normal year, players can do both, provided they meet the academic requirements to graduate high school in December.
One prospect from California, three-star defensive tackle Victory Vaka, announced Monday that he will skip his senior season at Westlake High School to enroll at Texas A&M in January. Others are expected to make similar decisions.
A delayed start to high school football in California could also deprive under-the-radar prospects of a critical opportunity to attract attention from Division I schools before the scheduled early signing period in December.
While the CIF's announcement explained that the state's 10 sections will ultimately choose whether fall sports begin in December or January, it did specify that the last day for regional and state football championships will be April 17, 2021 under the new calendar. The move by the CIF to push fall sports back comes after the National Junior College Athletic Association and California Community College Athletic Association announced that they will play football in the spring as well.