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SoCalHoops High School News

CIF Releaguing & Governance: Schools Stay Put,
Sections To Merge?--(Oct. 17, 2000)

Today's Orange County Register featured a couple of articles of interest to those who follow high school hoops, and we're not talking about Steve Fryer's piece on Martin Iti (6'-11" Jr. C) who is still trying to regain his eligibility to play at Villa Park.  Nope, instead we're talking about the story by Dan Albano, who wrote about the recent meeting which took place Monday before the CIF Southern Section's "Releaguing" Committee. 

For those who don't know it, all of the CIF Sections across the state are in the process of conducting hearings and committee meetings to consider the releaguing process for the period of 2002-2006.  That may seem like a long way off to some, but it's just around the corner, the season after this, and when it comes to reconfiguring leagues, it takes at least one, and sometimes two years just to go through the process.

In NorCal, the releaguing process is taking it's toll.  In fact one of the proposals on the table there is to eliminate an entire CIF Section and merge it into another exisiting section.  Why?  Because the "section" is really just a 6-team league.   The Oakland Section, with only six schools -- all in the Oakland Athletic League is currently the hot topic of debate in NorCal, and the CIF State commissioner's office is considering having it become part of the North Coast Section, a proposal raised at a California Interscholastic Federation governance meeting held Oct. 5 at St. Joseph-Notre Dame High School in Alameda. It was one of 17 meetings the CIF held during the first week of October as part of its governance structure review. But whatever the leagues and section governance proposals, there are vested interests everywhere. Each section wields a certain amount of power and no one wants to give up their slice, and the same is true of leagues.  Schools who are entrenched in certain leagues don't want to admit others who might threaten them, and in SoCal, one such releaguing proposal that is especially threatening to some people is the thought of allowing "those private schools" into the same leagues with Orange County or other cities' public schools.   The most often repeated excuse/reason/rationale for excluding schools from competing against public schools is "hey, those private schools are really good, and they are really good because they have no enrollment boundaries (i.e., they "recruit", which public schools can't).  At least that's the oft repeated mantra.

And it was the same theme again this past Monday, even if it wasn't stated that directly.  Conversely, the private schools, in this case some of the parochial schools who have been placed into leagues designed to keep them competing against other similiar situated schools (e.g., the Serra League with Mater Dei, St. John Bosco, Santa Margarita Catholic, and Servite) complain that they have to travel too far, and thus their costs are too great.

But on Monday, as Albano wrote this morning, the CIF Southern Section Releaguing Committee "delivered a strong blow. . . to Santa Margarita's bid to move from the private school Serra League to a public school league in Orange County."  As Albano explained, "All leagues are classified by areas. Santa Margarita hopes to change its area from parochial to Orange County public to avoid 45-mile one-way trips to Bellflower (St. John Bosco) and 32-mile trips to Anaheim (Servite)." These trips cause students to miss class and study time, SM principal Merritt Hemenway said.   And they also intend to appeal the Southern Section committee's decision to turn down the releaguing request. "Terribly disappointing," Hemenway said of the committee's vote. "It's about politics. It's not about what's best for the kids."

Here's what Albano wrote concerning the reasoning behind the decisoin: "The overwhelming reason for the committee's decision seemed to be the often-argued issue of "competitive equity." It was the popular phrase of two-hour public meeting, which was led by chairwoman Susana Arce, assistant principal at Nordhoff, and Southern Section commissioner Jim Staunton. Committee members discussed the sentiment among public schools that private schools compete with a 'different set of rules' and often dominate league races. Dan Burch, Orange County's representative on the committee, said the principals he has talked to weren't happy when private schools were part of public school leagues. Santa Margarita used to be the Sea View League; Mater Dei in the South Coast League. 'It was an experiment people felt wasn't a successful one,' said Burch, who will be principal at Tesoro High in the Capistrano Unified School District when it opens in fall 2001. Said Hemenway about competitive equity: 'It's an unfounded fear.'  Santa Margarita's one advocate Monday was St. John Bosco principal Bill Goodman, who was Santa Margarita's only "yes" vote (Northern representative Greig Welch of Paso Robles abstained). Goodman said Santa Margarita's travel could increase significantly if the four-team Serra League adds a team or two as some hope it does. Goodman said the argument of private schools having no attendance boundaries can be countered by public school's use of district transfers and open enrollment."

There were several other schools who also applied for releaguing, seeking to join competition on a regular basis with public schools.   The Committe heard from the following schools, all seeking to switch as indicated:


From Citrus Belt  

To Small Schools

Calvary Chapel/S.A.  

From Small Schools  

To Orange Counnty


From Small Schools  

To Orange County

St. Michael’s Prep   

From Small Schools  

To Freelance

Santa Margarita  

From Parochial  

To Orange County

Silver Valley  

From Freelance  

To Desert

Pomona Catholic  

From Mt. Sac  

To Small Schools

Orange Lutheran and Calvary Chapel Santa Ana were also turned down.  Both are currently in the Olympic League, but would like to move to one of the other Orange County public leagues. Appeals will be heard by CIF's Executive Committee on Nov. 15.

In NorCal, the process is largely the same, although the focus there has been on overall governance and not just league structuring.   But while changing the structure of CIF sections is often discussed, it hasn't happened since 1960, when the San Diego Section was first created.  But there are several governance questions being seriously considered this year, and for the first time in a long time, people are willing to ask some really tough questions at these meetings.   Like whether the state's two smallest sections (Oakland and San Francisco) should be eliminated, or a proposal to place a ceiling on the maximum number of schools per section (which might mean breaking up the massive Southern Section), and creating a minimum number required (as in the case of Oakland or SF).  But the Oakland Section, and the 12-school San Francisco City Section have each existed for nearly 60 years, and, like the Southern Section, these are three examples of the converse of the old adage "size matters."   Sometime, especially when talking about the CIF, it really doesn't.

But sometimes it does. The balance of power in the CIF is determined by voting.  And the bigger the seciton, the more votes: Voting power for the CIF's Federated Council lies with the larger sections. The 520-school Southern Section has 30 votes out of 118 in the CIF's weighted-vote format.  The Sac-Joaquin Section has next largest with 15 votes. NCS has 13. Oakland and San Francisco each have two, one more than what's allocated to each of a handful of statewide organizations outside the CIF.  And voting power means having the clout to decide such things as playoff systems, tournament locations, and the like.  We're not sure whether bigger is really better, but there's no doubt that it sure does get more votes.

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