STOCKTON — The Sac-Joaquin Section took a major step toward allowing schools to "petition up" playoff divisions in its final Board of Managers meeting for the 2007-08 school year.
At Wednesday morning's meeting at Elkhorn Country Club, the board approved a rule that grants any school the opportunity to move up from its current, enrollment-based playoff division.
It's a step that is in direct contrast to the so-called "Modesto Christian Rule," which was voted into the section's bylaws for the 2002-03 school year. But the new rule has two major caveats.
First, the only teams allowed to move up are cross country, volleyball and boys and girls basketball. And second, if one of those teams wishes to move up, then all four of those teams at a school must move up.
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"The purpose of this proposal was to have more competitive equity in the playoffs," CIF past president George Hinds said. "This is a first step. We're testing the waters."
This was a voting item because there's a state rule on its way to being approved that will allow each section to decide the playoff division for its teams. Currently, the state uses an enrollment-based system where the sections have little say. That system has come under fire because the same teams keep winning state titles, especially at the lower levels and in basketball.
"There are some schools that compete at the Division I level all year long," Hinds said. "Presumably, they would have no problem moving up for the playoffs. And some people don't think it's fair that these Division I-level teams are playing at Division III or IV for the playoffs."
There are three schools within the section that are believed to be considering moving up. Modesto Christian has said its basketball teams would like to move up, but it won't sacrifice its volleyball program to do so.
Section commissioner Pete Saco said St. Mary's (Division III) and Sacramento (Division IV) have shown interest in moving up.
But the big question that wasn't answered during Wednesday's meeting was, what's the next step?
The only clue came from Saco when he said, "There's a whole new look that we're trying for basketball. This is part of that look."
That look appears to have been released in a CIF committee agenda item placed on the CIF North Coast Section Web site: The CIF is looking at an open division for basketball, and it's looking at expanding the NorCal and SoCal Regional basketball championship tournaments to 16 teams.
So, we could see an open playoff division for the highest-level programs in basketball and football in the next few years.
The section now requires all incoming schools to have at least two sports per season before being approved as a member. Saco said this stems from a situation two years ago, when "a school with nine or 10 students and offering one sport" applied for CIF membership.
In one of the final aftershocks of last fall's Franklin High football recruiting scandal, the section removed the two-year statute of limitations for all bylaw infractions. The new statute of limitations is seven years.
Saco said this stems directly from the Franklin fiasco, where the section found proof of recruiting violations going back for four years but could only enforce violations from two years ago.
The Harvest Christian League added Lodi Academy as a full member and added Venture Academy of Stockton as an associate member. Lodi Academy replaces Calvary Temple in Modesto, which will close the doors to its school at the end of the school year.
SONORA High golfer Kevin Rei signed a national letter-of-intent to play for Chico State University. Rei, a Modesto Bee All-District selection as a sophomore and junior, is midway through his final high school season for the Wildcats. He was the Valley Oak League MVP as a junior.
"I predict a breakout freshman year for Kevin," Chico State coach T.L. Brown said. "I love his on-course demeanor and competitive fire."
BEYER High soccer goalkeeper Andrew Ball signed a national letter-of-intent to play for Sonoma State University, a member of the NCAA Division II's California Collegiate Athletic Association. Ball, a second-team All-MMC selection, will head home at least once a year to play fellow CCAA member Cal State Stanislaus in Turlock.
Will DeBoard's high schools column appears Thursdays. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, write him at P.O. Box 5256, Modesto, CA 95352-5256, call 578-2300, or fax 238-4551.