It’s usually about this time in March when I get up on my soap box and tell anyone who will listen that it's time to change the CIF State Basketball Tournament to give public schools a better shot at winning a state title. Although the CIF has moved this year’s state championship games to Bakersfield because of a schedule conflict with Arco Arena, despite the switch of locations, the trend for the state finals has remained the same. Of the 20 teams participating in this year’s 10 boys and girls championship contests, 15 of the schools come from the private sector. In divisions III and below, there are exactly zero public schools involved. For the record books, only three boys public schools have reached state championship games at the Div. IV level — Hercules in 2003, Pacific Grove in 1998 and Encina in 1997. The last public school boys team to win a state crown was in 1996 when Washington Union of the Fresno area defeated Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa, yes the same Cardinal Newman parochial school that eliminated Colfax’s boys in Nor Cal games in 2005 and 2006. For the last all-public school boys Div. IV state final you have to go back to 1988 when Washington Union defeated Terra Linda of San Rafael. On the girls side, Piedmont, with the Parris Twins, won state crowns for the publics in 2004 and 2005 and prior to that Campolindo took three straight state titles from 1995 to 1997. Closer to home, Colfax’s girls fell to St. Bernard of Playa Del Rey – yep, another private school – 61-57 at Arco in the 1998 state final while Bear River got bushwhacked twice by the privates – in 1993 and in 1994 – also to St Bernard. Prior to 2001, public schools, especially in Div. III, IV and V, would at times reach the state finals. However, in 2001, after 250-student Modesto Christian beat Jesuit in the Sac-Joaquin Section finals and De La Salle in the NorCal finals and then barely lost to Mater Dei in the Div. I state championship game, the powers that be in the CIF stepped in. Irked that a small, Div. V school could “attract” talent enough to run with the big boys, the CIF mandated that schools would now have to play in their enrollment division and could not move up. Since that rule was implemented, the Sac-Joaquin Section has allowed schools to move up one division but any school that selects to move up must have to in both boys and girls basketball and volleyball. In a recent column that ran in the Oakland Tribune, their prep sports writer had a few good ideas that were well taken. In a nutshell: • Allow smaller private schools to play up. A school like Salesian and St. Mary’s – both with Div. IV enrollments – can attract top players from the entire Bay Area and would probably rather play Bishop O’Dowd and De La Salle than Kelseyville or Clear Lake. Do you think the St. Mary’s of Stockton girls don’t want to play Long Beach Poly? • Place private schools in divisions where they belong – for perhaps four years or until a trend is shown that they can’t compete. For instance, for most of this season, Salesian, a Div. IV school, was the top-ranked team of any division in the Bay Area.