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Realignment may heavily affect VOL

We're two years out of the next realignment, but the writing is on the wall for many Stanislaus District schools.

When the next athletic league realignment takes effect in 2010, it appears there will be several changes in the Valley Oak League. Because of those changes, there will be a trickle-down effect through the Stanislaus District's smaller leagues as well.

"Nothing really revs up on realignment until the fall," Sac-Joaquin Section assistant commissioner John Williams said. "But we've contacted a few leagues where we think there could be some issues. We've asked them to start thinking about the process as well."

Up north, Williams said, the section's largest realignment issue is the Interstate 80 corridor. Loads of schools of varying enrollments stretch along the freeway from Sacramento to Auburn.

And in our neck of the woods, the section has identified the VOL as a hot spot. At the same time, it looks as though the Modesto Metro Conference won't change for some time.

"We've been pretty open about the VOL," Williams said. "It's going to be an issue."

Currently, the VOL is made up of eight schools (four in Manteca, two in Ceres, Oakdale and Sonora).

But Lathrop High, Manteca's fifth public school, joins the VOL next year. And in two years, Patterson -- enrollment 1,560 -- will almost definitely join the VOL.

That places 10 schools with enrollments from 1,259 (Central Valley) to 2,056 (Sierra, which will shrink when Lathrop opens) looking for a league. And a 10-team league almost definitely won't be an option.

SO what is the VOL looking at? For starters, it's invited administrators from Patterson and Galt to join its meetings.

"I think there's definitely going to be two six-team leagues," VOL commissioner Norm Antinetti said. "We aren't exactly thrilled with it, but we're pretty sure that's what's going to happen."

With an enrollment of 2,199, Galt High School is a little too large to join to VOL. But it's building a second high school -- Liberty Ranch -- that will put both of those schools within the VOL limits.

The VOL's current proposal looks like this. The VOL East would include Oakdale, Sonora, Ceres, Central Valley, Lathrop and Sierra. The VOL West would be Patterson, Manteca, East Union, Weston Ranch and the two Galt schools.

"Two years is a long way from now, but people are already making plans," Antinetti said. "But this is where we're at right now. It could change tomorrow."

Neither side wants to lose the VOL name, hence the directional divisions.

ANOTHER potential development is Los Banos building a second high school. The city passed a $44 million bond two weeks ago, and Superintendent Steve Tietjen said that money would be used to build a second high school.

The Los Banos schools would also fall within the VOL enrollment boundaries. If the Los Banos schools moved to the VOL, that would leave the Central California Conference with six teams and would force the Galt schools to look north.

And with Patterson moving out of the WAC, it means the smaller leagues are going to have to scramble to find a replacement.

The section's realignment committee can go several different ways here.

It could move Big Valley Christian out of the Harvest Christian League and into the Southern League. Big Valley has enough teams to compete in most SL sports and is the most likely school to move up from the smaller Christian leagues.

It could eschew the recommended six-team league format and create two leagues of eight teams and one of seven teams. That would create two TVL-equivalent leagues with the smallest seven becoming part of the SL.

Or, it could create an all-private school league along with two public school leagues. This is admittedly a long shot to happen.

At this time, we're strictly at jockeying-for-position stage. But it doesn't mean little is happening. Decisions are now being made that will affect schools through the 2013-14 season.

"It's early, but it doesn't mean it isn't important," Antinetti said.

TONIGHT'S girls basketball game between Turlock High and Pitman High is going to be a fund-raiser for the Breast Cancer Fund. Anyone who wears pink to the game will get in for a $2 donation. This is part of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association's Think Pink campaign focusing on raising funds for breast cancer research from Feb. 8-17.

Tipoff is at Turlock High School at 7:15 p.m.

Will DeBoard's high schools column appears

Thursdays. E-mail him at wdeboard@modbee.com, write him at P.O. Box 5256, Modesto, CA 95352-5256, call 578-2300 or fax 238-4551.

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