Central Valley Football Coaches Plan to Unveil Path for Safe Return of Sports

Clovis High head football coach Rich Hammond is one of four leaders in the Central Section Football Coaches Association, which will unveil its plan for a safe return to spring sports at a press conference Wednesday, Jan. 20. (Gabe Camarillo/Clovis Roundup)

A coalition of head football coaches in the Central Valley will hold a press conference Wednesday, Jan. 20 to unveil its plan to return to play. Among them are well-known names in the TRAC: Kyle Biggs of Central High School and Rich Hammond of Clovis High School.

The press conference will be held in front of Bullard High School’s football field at 3:30 p.m.

“Valley high school football coaches have joined forces with their colleagues from across California to advocate for a spring sports season for thousands of prep athletes locked out of extracurricular activities during the past 10 months,” said a press release announcing the event.

Biggs and Hammond, along with Bullard’s Don Arax and Hoover’s Rustin Pickett, led the creation of the Central Section Football Coaches Association, a local arm of the statewide Golden State Football Coaches Association. The group of section football coaches is advocating not only for high school football to be played, but other spring sports in danger of having their seasons canceled as well.

“If the number of COVID-19 cases come down significantly in spring — and we have hope that they will — we need to be prepared to offer a fuller range of sports to our kids,” Arax said. “Right now, our student-athletes are caught in this cruel limbo and suffering in ways I’ve never seen in my 36 years of coaching.”

Part of the coaches’ plan is a petition for moving practices and games into the “Red” Tier, as determined by the California Department of Public Health. Of the four tiers used by the CDPH — Purple, Red, Orange and Yellow — football, soccer and volleyball competitions are currently permitted in the second to last tier. By moving the sports’ practices and games up one tier, in the coaches’ eyes, it increases the likelihood those sports can be played.

In addition, the CSFCA announced that it created four unique football schedules accommodating for various levels of COVID-19 cases in the San Joaquin Valley. All four depend on the San Joaquin Valley exiting its regional stay-at-home order by reaching 15 percent ICU capacity available (the region currently sits at 3 percent).

It remains to be seen how those schedules will be impacted by Tuesday’s CIF Central Section calendar update, which announced there will be no section football playoffs or championships and the football season must conclude by April 17, 2021.

Pickett remains steadfast that a season can be played, with his and the other coaches’ expectation that the pandemic will “ease its grip” in early or late spring.

“We have to be prepared to give kids an outlet when the COVID-19 numbers come down,” Pickett said. “To me, it’s not a question of if we play but when can we safely fit in an abbreviated season.”

Gabriel Camarillo
Gabriel Camarillo has written for the Clovis Roundup since August 2019 and follows high school athletics, Fresno State football and former Clovis Unified student-athletes. Gabe also writes for The Collegian as a staff sports writer and works at One Putt Broadcasting as a board op for 940 ESPN radio.