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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
The 2016-2017 school year has already begun and the most glaring change in the athletic world comes on the football field as teams have now been placed into divisions based on the equal competitiveness. The California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section has done away with the “named divisions”, i.e., PAC-5, Mid Valley, Southeast, Southwest, etc., and have simply placed teams in Division 1-13.
“The general concept was to move schools into divisions where schools could compete,” said CIF-SS Commissioner of Athletics Rob Wigod. “The previous system was always league-based and that wasn’t always the best indicator.”
Wigod, who is in his sixth year as commissioner, said he found a report he gave to the Executive Committee in Jan. 2010 where he tried to give them a report on where the CIF-SS could go with an idea of placing schools in divisions based on competitiveness. However, the key step began four years ago. Assistant Commissioner Glenn Martinez has been instrumental in collecting data from the previous two years, including results of the regular season and section playoffs, strength of schedule, playoff performances in the section playoffs to restructure the teams in the 13 divisions. Power rankings also play a key factor in this.
“We’re trying to focus on one issue; competitiveness,” Wigod said. “Are you good? Are you not good? But who should you play? You should play people that are competitive with you. It doesn’t mean you’re going to win every single game. But are you competitive with them? School enrollment is not an indicator of competitiveness. It never really has been.”
Changes will be made each year based on the previous two years of data once a season has been completed. For example, once this school year is done, then data from the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 school years will be evaluated and used to form the 13 football divisions for next year.
“This is, remember, the first one,” Wigod said. “It will get so much better to evaluate the strength of divisions. Obviously PAC-5 is best. The Southwest and maybe another one would [have been] considered Tier 2. Now you don’t have that anymore. You’re going to have one, two, three, four five; it’s going to be so clearly delineated.”
The same process will also be used in all of the other sports, not just football. No longer will teams have to follow their own leagues in order to advance to the playoffs. In Division 1, there are 18 schools fighting for 16 playoff spots. Norwalk High and Valley Christian High are now in Division 9, Gahr High in Division 10, Artesia High in Division 12 and Cerritos High and John Glenn High in Division 13. For girls volleyball, there will be 10 divisions instead of each of those being broken up into I-AA and I-A.
Although the boys and girls basketball playoffs have been based off of enrollment for the past several years, the plans for equal balance for football has actually been in makings for a few years as well. Wigod said that it was actually volleyball that came up with this concept first, noting that the volleyball coach’s committee said they wanted the same system that basketball has.
It was about four years ago that the CIF-SS began to create the system of collecting the data, scores, etc. to put the wheels in motion. Wigod added that he didn’t want a situation where, since volleyball came up with the idea first, the playoffs for that sport would be changed, then another sport the next year, then a third sport the year after and so forth.
“How do we put all of those sports in the same kind of module basketball had, but without enrollment,” Wigod questioned a few years ago. “It takes some time to do that and I think we worked through a good process to get there. The section was looking for us to do this. I believe that. They wanted this and we had to get to a point where we could deliver it.”
Wigod said there has been a lot of positive feedback with this new system. He says there are a lot of people who are looking forward to seeing this play out.
For football purposes, Cerritos hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2001, Glenn 2002, Artesia 2008 and Gahr 2009. The new system gives those four schools a better chance of advancing to the postseason, provided they can win enough games, since they will all be going up against teams in other leagues in similar positions.
“La Mirada is getting to go where they should go,” Wigod said. “And then an Artesia or whoever; they have a chance to be competitive. How do you build a program? What if they won a playoff game? What if they won a second playoff game? We think that’s what the system is going to do for folks who have had trouble. You still have to make playoffs and that’s another thing. That’s a league issue.”
Another major change that the CIF-SS has already begun planning will actually take place beginning with the 2018-2019 school year when the fall, winter and spring seasons will begin much sooner. For example, in 2018, the first Week Zero football game will begin on Aug. 17 with the regular season ending on Oct. 26. All of the winter sports will begin on Nov. 12 while the track and field state championships will take place Memorial Day weekend.
The reason for the change is because the CIF State office moved some championship dates forward because the school calendars will be changing.
“The feeling was the CIF calendars have to get lined up here,” Wigod said. “The CIF calendars have been kind of the old ‘after Labor Day to the middle of June’, playing our baseball and softball championships in the first weekend of June. We have schools that have been out for two weeks. We have schools that have started Aug. 1 who don’t play a game for a full month.”
So far, dates have been set for those sports that have state or Southern Regional championships. The CIF-SS will still have to put together a calendar for sports such as baseball and softball, whose seasons end with the divisional championships. Wigod said that a proposal for a 2018-2019 calendar will be completed next month or Jan., 2017.
Wigod said that another change for this school year is on the technology side as the CIF-SS will have a mobile app on the website that will link all of the social media.
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