CIF modifies participation requirement for track and field – Academic ineligibility waiver added for all sports

The CIF San Diego Section has a minimum participation requirement for individual sports; an athlete who has not competed in the minimum and has not obtained a waiver for injury or other reasons may not compete in the CIF meet or tournament. The intent of that rule is to encourage participation on the high school team throughout the season rather to punish students who attend schools which provide fewer opportunities.

The CIF Board of Managers modified the minimum participation threshold for track and field June 5, reducing the minimum number of meets from nine to five by unanimous voice vote. The changes also add a waiver for academic ineligibility for all sports.

The original rule required athletes to compete in more than one-half of the permissible maximum individual contests in a season. A tri-meet, in which three schools participate, counts as one point even though a team receives two decisions. In track and field an individual may participate in up to 16 meets in one season.

The desire to reduce expenses has led to additional tri-meets, and entry fees and transportation costs have also made invitational meets a target for some schools’ budget cuts. “It’s become a financial issue and finances should never prevent kids from having the opportunity to participate,” said CIF commissioner Jerry Schniepp.

The waiver for injury or illness requires a physician’s statement, but some track and field coaches will hold an athlete out of a meet to prevent a minor injury from being aggravated and some coaches will also rest an athlete to prevent fatigue at the league or CIF meet. The track and field coaches were also concerned that utilizing athletes for the sole purpose of reaching the minimum number of meets could lead to fatigue or injury.

In June 2009 the Board of Managers reduced the minimum participation requirement for cross-country from seven meets to five. In October 2010 the wrestling match participation requirement was reduced from 21 to 10 to benefit wrestlers eliminated early in a tournament and grapplers who do not participate due to a teammate in the same weight class.

“I think they did their homework enough,” said San Diego Unified School District director of physical education, health, and athletics Bruce Ward, who is the SDUSD representative on the CIF Board of Managers. “We’ll have to make sure it’s not abused.”

The rule targeted athletes who participate in non-high school tournaments or meets and not those whose season began late due to transfer eligibility clearance or participation in another high school sport’s post-season. Participation in junior varsity contests is applied toward the minimum number of meets.

The waiver decision is made by the CIF commissioner, and previously waivers due to academic ineligibility have not been granted. Since the minimum participation requirement only applies to individual sports, an athlete who regains eligibility can compete in team sports playoffs and the waiver allows a more equitable situation for athletes in individual sports. Team championships in individual sports are based on individual results, so the change also allows teams the same opportunity for championships squads in team sports have. The waiver also rewards responsible athletes who regain eligibility by not penalizing them after they improve their grades.

The waiver form was also amended to address non-participation due to a transfer; the transfer paperwork is now required as part of the waiver application.

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