Matt Carpenter, athletic director at Yucaipa High School, had nothing but guesswork and speculation on just when prep athletics will reopen due to the COVID-19 shutdown in recent months.
“I get 50 questions a day,” he said. “They all want to know, ‘when do we start?’”
He will quickly refer to the pecking order -- “the state tells the counties … the counties tell the districts … and the districts tell us.”
No one has told him a thing ... yet.
Carpenter refers to an often-overlooked fact:
First and foremost is the reopening of schools. Only then can the issue of athletics be determined. Carpenter said a deadline of Monday, July 20, has been set by CIF-Southern Section officials to determine the next step.
Losing a high school athletic season could be a huge setback. If there’s anyone that’s been hit hard close to home, literally, it’s the Carpenter household.
Six-foot-6-inch senior center Mitchell Carpenter, who stands tall in both the water polo pool and a basketball court, is set for his senior year.
The elder Carpenter’s feelings might be equal to that of every single parent with a student-athlete on Yucaipa’s campus.
“It hit me just the other day,” said Carpenter, “Oh, my gosh. This season might not happen, basketball and water polo. And both of his teams are supposed to have good seasons.”
“That was in the pit of my stomach.”
Matt Carpenter said he asked his son, “Have you moved yourself to consider whether or not you’ll be able to play?”
Mitchell Carpenter apparently told him, “Yeah.”
Everything to reopen athletics is on the table, Carpenter said he was told by CIF-Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod.
Football, for instance, might be a January start.
Opening in the fall, or late summer, would be a challenge at this point.
Carpenter said, “It will be really tough.”
According to a conversation he had with Thunderbirds head football coach Justin Price, was hoping to start conditioning on July 6.
“He’s got to get (conditioning) going,” he said, “because of a Zero Week game” against Palm Springs on Aug. 21.
If football doesn’t get started soon, that sport might have to revert to a February football schedule, which is one of the contingency plans recently announced by the state’s junior college system.
There are at least three plans produced by state junior college leadership.
Another junior college scheduling possibility is playing men’s and women’s basketball during the spring instead of winter months.
“That’s possible,” said Carpenter. “Rob (Wigod) told me, ‘everything is on the table.’”
Starting fall sports in January, is also possible.
“We’d have three really condensed seasons,” Carpenter noted, referring to the fall, winter and sports schedules.
There will be no state championships for any sport. It’s also possible that high schools will play just the league portion of its schedule. In Yucaipa’s case, that means contests against San Bernardino Cajon, plus Redlands, Redlands East Valley and Citrus Valley, along with new Citrus Belt League affiliate Beaumont.
Consider the financial impact of no high school football.
Ticket revenue, along with Associated Student Body funds from annual card sales, could take away a huge chunk from an estimated annual $400,000 athletic budget. That includes transportation, coaching stipends, officials, plus equipment repairs, among other expenses.
“My budget comes from so many different sources,” said Carpenter.
By the way, he poses this question: “Will kids still be buying ASB cards if there’s no football season?”
Students get free game admission with an ASB card.
Here’s another key question: If high school athletics do get underway, will spectators be allowed?
Said Carpenter: “That discussion is out there.”
Livestreaming, as in the case of a Yucaipa volleyball game last fall, “is not cheap,” he said.
Questions are piling up far quicker than answers.
Plan A for Carpenter is “business as usual.”
Failing that is the next step, hoping, he said, that “kids will still buy ASB cards out of loyalty. That could be hard if parents have lost their jobs.”
Plan C, he said, would be fundraising. “Not sure if we want to get into that.”
The final step, he said, “would be for me to beg money from the district.”
As for his own son, Mitchell, losing out on his own sports, Matt Carpenter seemed ready to speak for most people.
“As parents, we’re all craving that time for them. It would be sad to see their senior year … not to have that for them.”
Carpenter is aware of everything, ranging from football and volleyball to the aquatics sports, plus track and cross country, plus everything else.
“There are records to be broken,” he said, “and top 10 lists to be joined. I know that’s not why you play sports, but that’s part of it.”
More Carpenter guesswork: “If we can get a vaccine in December, we can start playing in January.”
Carpenter quoted another source, which stated, “the virus is in control.
“Not a school board. Not a superintendent, but the virus is in control. I agree with that.”