California: To Play or Not to Play

NFL's decision and President Bush's declaration seems to have had a ripple effect -- right down to the high school level

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A random sampling of schools with top-ranked football teams in California and calls to CIF section offices conducted early Thursday afternoon showed that only a small number of scheduled games for Friday night were going to be canceled or postponed in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C.

But by the end of the day the numbers of those who were canceling or postponing was growing by the hour. Another sampling taken Friday morning, and a scan of various newspaper web sites, seemed to indicate that many school districts decided to cancel after the NFL postponed all of its weekend games and after President Bush declared that Friday would be a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance.

The Fresno Unified School District had met on Wednesday and announced all of its schools would be allowed to participate in athletic events during the weekend. That stance changed on Thursday.

"The reason we reversed our decision was out of consideration for the President's proclamation," said Carol Sarkisian-Bonard, assistant superintendant for secondary education, in a quote taken from the Fresno Bee."We will have appropriate remembrances during the day at schools. To hold athletic evens would not be an appropriate remembrance."

Nationwide, the best example of the ripple effect was in Oklahoma. After the NFL and President Bush made their decisions, all Division I-A colleges postponed its games, including Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, which originally were going to play. Those cancellations then prompted the state association to recommend that no high school games be played, either. That resulted in cancellation of the annual rivalry game between Tulsa area rivals Jenks and Union, which last year drew 40,000 to the University of Tulsa's Skelly Stadium.

In California, a mixed picture has emerged. Here is a sampling:

San Diego -- No cancellations reported other than Rancho Buena Vista's game against an L.A. school.

Los Angeles -- All L.A. Unified schools, which comprise the CIF L.A. Section, will not play.

Southern Section -- On Thursday, the Orange County Department of Education recommended that no games be played on Friday. No games for schools in Moreno Valley School District or in Palos Verdes Estates. Schools in the L.A. Archdiocese will not play although at least three Catholic schools who are not part of that archdiocese will play. Various games postponed until Saturday, including major matchup between Mater Dei and Mission Viejo.

Central Section -- Only 13 of 40 scheduled games to be played. In addition to Fresno Unified, the Kern High School District and the Clovis Unified School District canceled all games.

Central Coast Section -- The Peninsula Athletic League, which comprises San Mateo County schools, was the only league that cancelled games. A report in the San Jose Mercury-News indicated that all other scheduled games would be played.

San Francisco/Oakland -- No cancellations reported.

North Coast Section -- Cancellations reported for schools in Fremont and Alameda. At least one game cancelled in Redwood Empire and two other games in the region moved to Saturday.

Sac-Joaquin Section -- No cancellations reported. Section commissioner Pete Saco told the Sacramento Bee:"I could see the argument one way or another, for playing or not playing. (Today) is a national day of prayer and remembrance, and we hope all students think about those who lost their lives. It's really sad. It bothers everyone what's happened. And I can see why the NFL and college don't play because of all the air travel and the large crowds."

Northern Section -- No cancellations reported. One school that it would have been especially understood is Trinity of Weaverville. Two weeks ago the school was nearly destroyed by a wildfire and on Monday night one of the school's football players, fullback Scott Fackrell, died from injuries he suffered in an auto accident the day before.

Even in the midst of all the gut-wrenching decisions being made, games were played on Thursday, too.  At the Grape Bowl in Lodi, Elk Grove, one of the top teams in the Sac-Joaquin Section, went up against Tokay of Lodi and posted a 33-14 victory.

Tokay coach Jeff Tracy seemed to feel a lot like those who think their teams should play in the midst of the tragedy.

"We can't let terrorists dictate to us," Tracy told the Stockton Record. "Professionals are different. They travel with the airlines and play in big stadiums. Nobody is going to bomb the Grape Bowl......We've got to go on. America has to go on."

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