Representatives of the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Southern Section council voted on Wednesday to pass a measure that will drastically change the playoff and league structures for high school sports.
The proposal, which will go into effect this fall, will change CIF playoff seeding and league placement from a model based on student enrollment to a power-ranking system based on performance over the past two years that includes regular season record, strength of schedule and playoff performance. The power-ranking system will be updated each year. A similar system has been in place for boys and girls basketball for a number of years.
The council, made of 88 representatives from leagues in the Southern Section, approved the “Playoff Groupings by Competitive Equity” proposal by a 74-10 vote, with one abstaining.
“I think competitive equity is one of the better ways to go,” Mission Prep Athletic Director Vic Ecklund said in a phone interview with The Tribune on Wednesday. “It gives every team a chance to compete.”
The change is a reaction to what CIF Commissioner Rob Wigod called problems with competitive imbalance in the current system.
In a news release put out by the CIF in November, Wigod said that large margins of victories in the first rounds of football, water polo and tennis playoffs in 2015 clearly indicates “that there is a very large gap across the spectrum of sports and divisions.” It was a big enough discrepancy for Wigod to champion what he called the biggest change in 100 years, according to the Long Beach Press-Telegram.
Arroyo Grande athletic director Dwight MacDonald said Wednesday he likes the overall idea, but he is in favor of a regionalization model.
“I don’t mind (the CIF) trying to make it more competitive. I’m all for that,” MacDonald said. “I just think we can do that from here to Santa Barbara instead of from here to Temecula.”
MacDonald conceded that the basketball playoff and league structure has “worked fairly well,” but in the new model, the size of the Southern Section — which was made up of 581 schools in 2014 and stretches from north of San Francisco to Los Angeles — will continue to present travel issues.
“It’s not equitable when a team has to travel 500 miles to play a game and travel another 500 miles to play a game a week later,” MacDonald said, suggesting that the Southern Section be broken up into smaller sections.
Ecklund, MacDonald and Wigod all agree that there will be problems in the first couple of years of implementation. If a school disagrees with its placement, Ecklund said there is an appeals process in place where schools can ask to be moved.
The new divisions and leagues for each team are expected to be released in August.
“The thinking is that with new models, there will be less blowouts,” MacDonald said. “But that remains to be seen.”