A bracketed playoff system always has seemed like a far-away dream for Northern California community college football – until now.
The dream became reality last weekend when the 12-man Northern California Football Competition Committee – which included Modesto Junior College coach Sam Young – voted unanimously to create three elite “Division 1” conferences.
Modesto will remain a member of the realigned Valley Conference, one of those three leagues along with the NorCal and the Bay 6.
The proposal, a two-year program, is expected to be approved by California Community College Athletic Association in April.
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The first-ever bracket, effective this fall, will be filled by the three conference champions along with one at-large team to be determined by power ratings. The eventual winner will be the Northern California champion who will meet the SoCal winner for the state title.
In the past, the NorCal finalists were determined by the champions of the Valley and the NorCal. The bracket concept brings the North more in line with the South and, of course, enhances the competition.
“The format will spark the interest,” Young said. “The goal will still be to win your league.”
The new formula scraps the former three-tiered system and switches six conferences to five. New league and division titles also have been installed – the former “Tier 1” now is called the National Division and “Tier 2” is the “American Division.” Only two bowl games will be available for the American Division teams, which will not be eligible for the state title chase.
Equity in scheduling will be enhanced by mandating that National teams meet National opponents for all but one non-league game. Young hopes the Pirates can keep their annual game against Merced.
“Everyone is in the same boat now. It will be super-competitive,” Young said. “I think it’s going to be very exciting.”
Meanwhile, the biennial realignment kicked in with Chabot and Laney joining the Valley Conference and American River and Sierra switching to the NorCal. MJC rallied to a tie for second in the Valley last fall and finished 6-5 with its first road bowl win in 33 years (over Santa Rosa).
“I think Laney and Chabot are formidable. So were American River and Sierra,” Young said.
The bracketed-playoff idea has been planned for at least six years.
“Long time coming,” NCFA Commissioner Gary Kollenborn said. “The only mismatches will be with some of our former middle-tiered teams dropping down and becoming big dogs and others going up and having a hard time. But overall it’s a healthy and good thing.”