New Proposal Would Bring Sweeping Changes To CIF Football Playoff Format

16-Team Brackets; Divisions To Be Determined By Enrollment
By: Mike Ray Gold Country News Services
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It’s in its infancy stages and still has to be approved by vote, but the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section is formulating a plan – that if ratified by the section’s schools and leagues – would bring the biggest changes to the high school playoff football system in more than 20 years. According to the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section office, leagues over the next few months are being apprised of the new proposal for input and feedback. “We’re addressing leagues this fall to help them get a feel for what the new plan entails,” said assistant section commissioner John Williams. “So far, we’ve had a good response.” If approved, the sweeping changes would most likely come into play when the new CIF realignment cycle starts in the fall of 2010 and would run for four football seasons through 2013. Under the new proposal, schools would be placed for football in divisions for playoffs – regardless of league – by enrollment. However, the biggest switch from the current to the new proposal would be expansion of the playoffs to 16-team brackets and a power ratings type formula to help determine seeding which could include third and fourth place and quite possibly, fifth place teams. “There’s a lot of things that we’re still working on including if we’re going to use a power ratings type format,” said Williams. “Some other sections do it but we’re still looking at how it would help us.” Using the current Div. III and IV as an example, Williams noted that 32 teams from the 10 leagues in that enrollment range would qualify for the playoffs, 16 in Div. III and 16 in Div. IV. League champions and runners-up would qualify automatically and all total, 32 teams would be seeded from 1 to 32. However, this is where the new plan gets interesting. According to Williams the plan calls for the top 16 teams to be seeded by enrollment for Div. III and the next 16 teams by enrollment for Div. IV An example of one of the new changes would be schools such as Colfax, with an enrollment of 950, and Bear River (1,120) wouldn’t play in the same playoff division anymore with teams such as Oakdale (1593), Manteca (1,710) or Rio Linda (1,679). “We’ll have a cutoff number but we don’t know where right now,” said Williams. “It could change year to year with enrollments going up and down. Right now, any schools above 1,300 or 1,400 would probably be in line to be considered Div. III and everything else below Div. IV.” In the new Div. III portion of the playoff picture, schools with enrollments bigger than 1,300-1,400 would be matched with leagues with such schools as Casa Roble (1,693), Bella Vista (1,820), Inderkum (1,476), Yuba City (1,848) Bethel of Vallejo (1,744) Vallejo (1,861) and Vanden (1,545) to form a 16-team bracket. In the Div. IV ranks, local teams with enrollments under 1,300 such as Colfax, Bear River and Golden Sierra, would be matched against foes such as Escalon, Hughson, Amador, Calaveras, Ripon, and most likely perennial state power Central Catholic of Modesto. In Del Oro’s case, the Golden Eagles, with an enrollment of 1,600 and a member of the Sierra Foothill League, would most likely play in the Div. II portion of the playoffs with schools in a range of 1,600-2,200, something the Loomis school basically does now. “Remember, this is all based on the new realignment so leagues will be changing,” said Williams. While there is no specific timeline for the plan, Williams indicated he wouldn’t be surprised if there was a first reading on the proposal next spring and a vote taken in October of 2009. One other change that would probably go into effect if the new playoff proposal is accepted is that the Sac-Joaquin Section football season would begin games the first weekend in September, or one week earlier than the current schedule.