The boys basketball coaches at Orange County’s private high schools are advancing closer toward creating a club-type league that could take the place of the CIF Southern Section season if it is canceled or greatly reduced because of the pandemic.
Coaches at Trinity League and other private schools will have a Zoom meeting Tuesday, Jan. 12 to discuss options for a season that would be held during the spring. The coaches met previously to discuss their options, and Tuesday’s meeting is supposed to establish specific details and dates.
Becoming a club league, with no school associations, would be a last resort, according to Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight, who has a leadership role in the coaches’ efforts to figure out a way for a 2021 spring season to occur.
McKnight said the coaches would prefer to have a typical CIF-SS season. If that can’t happen, the next choice would be to create a private-school league made up of O.C. teams that would play under CIF-SS auspices. If that, too, could not happen, then a club-type league would be the third and final option.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down high school sports so far for the 2020-21 school year. The basketball season, which usually begins in late November, has been rescheduled to start March 12.
The California Department of Public Health’s youth sports guidelines use a tiered system, based on the risk factors for each sport and the health conditions, to determine if a sport can begin. Basketball has been put in the yellow tier, meaning there has to be “minimal risk” of COVID-19 spread in a county for the sport to be played. All seven counties in the CIF Southern Section are in the purple tier (“widespread risk”).
Figuring it is a longshot that all seven counties will get to the yellow tier by the time the season is supposed to start, McKnight and other O.C. boys basketball coaches are examining options for an all-Orange County private school league. McKnight said with other counties perhaps having a more difficult time getting to the yellow tier, an all-O.C. league might provide the best chance for having a season.
“Hopefully we could start the league the Wednesday after Easter,” said McKnight. Easter is April 4. “We’d play three games a week for 18 regular-season games and get a tournament going after that so we could have 25 games.”
Some schools have looked into constructing outdoor wood courts, like the Carrier Classic basketball games that included a North Carolina vs. Michigan State game played on the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier in San Diego. (The Carrier Classic was discontinued because condensation buildup on the court made for a treacherous playing surface.)
Noting how COVID-19 data has only slightly moved downward in recent days, McKnight acknowledged “a lot has to change” in order for a regular high school season to take place.
“The COVID numbers have to get better so that we have a fighting chance,” McKnight said. “It would be a real shame for the kids to not have a season.”