By Ray Hamill — With a big decision looming in the coming weeks, the Humboldt-Del Norte League appears to be leaning toward a start date of December 14 for the 2020/21 prep sports year.
The big question, however, is whether the league will opt for a two-season or three-season format, or something else entirely.
Both the California Interscholastic Federation and North Coast Section, which includes the H-DNL, recently decided to push back the start of the sports year to mid-December because of concerns over the pandemic, with competition slated to start in January.
The calendar adopted by the CIF and NCS is for two seasons instead of the traditional three, which will result in nine local sports competing simultaneously between March and June.
And that will be problematic for many H-DNL programs, especially within the smaller schools, and will force some local multiple-sport athletes to decide on one sport over another.
In particular, that could be devastating for the smaller H-DNL teams in basketball, baseball, softball and soccer, all of whom would have to compete for athletes within their own schools and some of whom may not be able to field a team.
According to H-DNL Commissioner Jack Lakin, all of these concerns were discussed at a league meeting on Wednesday.
The H-DNL athletic directors will meet again next Wednesday to discuss options and potentially recommend an alternative H-DNL calendar.
If they deviate from the CIF plan, the most likely recommendation would be three shortened seasons of essentially eight or nine weeks each running from January through June, which would allow the multiple-sport athletes to play all their chosen sports, and allow the programs to field their expected teams.
The league will meet again on August 12 to review the options and possibly vote to approve a new calendar for the H-DNL.
Any proposal from the league would have to be approved by the NCS at its meeting on October 2.
The biggest problem with adopting a three-season format and going against the NCS and CIF’s recommendations is that it would prevent local teams from competing in section or state playoffs, which is a major part of the season for many of them.
Playing eight- or nine-week seasons also could be very problematic for outdoor sports if we have a wet spring, while going against the rest of the section would also severely limit scheduling opportunities.
The inland Northern Section, which stretches from Yuba and Sutter counties up to the Oregon border, originally voted against following the CIF’s directive, opting to try to compete in the fall, although the most influential leagues within the section have since backed downfrom that decision and largely accepted the state-wide directive.
According to Lakin, the consensus at Wednesday’s meeting seemed to be leaning toward supporting the CIF/NCS start date of December 14.
Whether that will mean two or three seasons in the new year remains to be seen.