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Scott Steepleton, Editor
11:03 am PDT June 17, 2020

Are you ready for some football?

A Malibu High School party?

The head of the Southern Section of California Interscholastic Federation, the governing body of high school competition in the state, says a decision on bringing back athletic programs could come within a month.

That should be a bit of good news for Malibu High School. Seeing the end zone is better than facing a pandemic with no end in sight.

But it’s not just the pigskin that’s at stake. Malibu High’s other fall sports are cross country, girls’ tennis, girls’ volleyball and boys’ water polo.

Come winter and spring, there’s, respectively, soccer and basketball, and baseball and swimming, among others.

You don’t have to be a fan to understand the loss these young athletes would feel if they were barred from the field of play.

You just have to have a beating heart.

High school sports, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations, promote things that are good for society, including citizenship and sportsmanship. “Activity programs instill a sense of pride in school and community,” the group says, “teach lifelong lessons and skills of teamwork and self-discipline and facilitate the physical and emotional development of the nation’s youth.”

Malibu High’s football program was hit by the Woolsey Fire, which razed some players’ homes and forced transfers. At the same time, tackle football is simply not attracting players as it once did, says the Federation. For the decade ending with the 2018-19 school year, players ages 6 to 18 dropped from 2.5 million to less than 1.9 million. Before the pandemic, participation was expected to drop below 1 million — a level not seen since 1998.

A slow-roll return to school could affect participation across sports.

In a letter to principals and athletic directors, CIF Southern Section Director Rob Wigod says he is “totally committed to having fall, winter and spring sports during the 2020-21 school year.”

Standing in the way, of course, is COVID-19, but Wigod says local school officials will determine what’s best for their communities.

In an effort to give educators as much time as possible to plan for the reopening of school and the return of sports, including ensuring that student athletes complete pre-participation physicals, Wigod says an announcement from the CIF State Office on the status of fall sports will come no later than July 20.

So, what happens if CIF, because of public health and safety concerns, blows the whistle on 2020-21 fall sports?

Officials at the state level are monitoring Gov. Gavin Newsom’s directives and guidelines and say they’re ready for anything.

“The CIF is prepared to offer alternative calendars if it is determined … that fall sports may not start as scheduled due to ongoing public health and safety concerns.”

In other words, Malibu, I'd hold off inviting all your rowdy friends back for football night.

You can reach Editor Scott Steepleton here.