The Santa Clara Valley Athletic League Board of Managers Friday overwhelmingly voted to allow qualifying teams to participate in the Central Coast Section playoffs, reversing a decision it made April 29.
Eleven of the 14 principals making up the board voted for playoffs at Friday’s special meeting. Two principals abstained, including Los Altos High’s Wynne Satterwhite. Board president Greg Shelby of Santa Clara High was the lone member to vote against the motion.
At last month’s meeting, all 14 board members voted “no” to playoffs, some citing concerns about having their schools participate in events beyond graduation and allowing their student-athletes to compete alongside those from other counties amid the pandemic. But after receiving scores of complaints from parents, students and coaches – along with a demand letter from a Southern California law firm threatening legal action if the board did not reconsider its stance – the members called Friday’s meeting to revisit the playoff decision.
Board members’ reasons for voting “yes” this time around included giving their student-athletes more opportunities to play in this shortened season and that safety is less of a concern now that the pandemic appears to be waning.
Members of the public were allowed to speak prior to the vote. The meeting opened with 30 minutes of public comment over Zoom, then the board went into closed session to discuss the demand letter with its legal counsel. Once the board emerged, public comment resumed for at least another 30 minutes. More than 20 people spoke in total – all in favor of playoffs.
In an email sent to the Bay Area media Saturday, Don Darby – a Palo Alto High parent involved in hiring the law firm – said, “It was truly amazing and inspiring to listen to all of the athletes tell their stories at the Zoom meeting. I hope that the student-athletes learned that they really can drive change if they speak up for what they believe in.”
The playoffs begin as soon as Saturday for some sports and run as late as June 19 for others.
“I am glad that SCVAL did their best to give as many sports as possible an opportunity to play this season,” Los Altos baseball coach Gabe Stewart said. “For us specifically, it is an opportunity to be closer to a ‘normal’ season during one of the most interesting situations we have seen. I know some issues remain to be worked out, but I am sure the players are excited to have an opportunity to have a shot to participate in the CCS playoffs.”