High School Sports

Taking a look at the Sac-Joaquin Section’s realignment puzzle

Realignment Q&A with Joe Cortez and James Burns

Modesto Bee sports writers Joe Cortez and James Burns discuss the main questions regarding the upcoming Sac-Joaquin Section realignment.
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Modesto Bee sports writers Joe Cortez and James Burns discuss the main questions regarding the upcoming Sac-Joaquin Section realignment.

Every four years, the Sac-Joaquin Section realigns the teams in its 26 athletic conferences to assure student-athletes compete on a level playing field.

It’s a noble endeavor, to be sure. And yet, nothing the section does causes as much rancor.

The next wave of realignments won’t take effect until the 2018-19 school year, but already it’s a becoming a major issue.

Athletic directors from the Modesto Metro Conference, Central California Conference, Valley Oak League and Western Athletic Conference met in Turlock last month to sniff out possible alliances.

“We’re already getting calls and we’re 2 1/2 years out,” said Will DeBoard, the section’s director of communications who was at the June 14 meeting at Turlock Junior High School.

Already, there are lots of proposals floating around, and I guarantee there’s a proposal sketched out on a notepad in your local athletic director’s desk drawer.

Realignment is of particular concern for Modesto’s public high schools: Beyer, Davis, Downey, Enochs, Gregori, Johansen and Modesto.

During the last cycle, the seven schools that make up the MMC went before the realignment committee on bended knee, asking to be kept in the same league. Their wish was granted, with the caveat that they address the league’s competitive imbalance.

Two years later, the MMC remains unbalanced, and the section is not inclined to do the league anymore favors.

Truth be told, breaking up the MMC is the right thing to do. Davis and Johansen need a new home, where they can claw their way to the top of the standings and have a chance at league championships … maybe even section championships in the near future.

And while the section takes an overarching view of all sports during this process, it’s really football that drives this debate. Playoff revenue for all sports during the 2014-15 school year totaled around $770,000. Of that, football accounted for almost $407,000, about 53 percent.

Nothing will be decided anytime soon. The section office will hear many proposals and go through many, many drafts before a final decision is made.

Over the coming days and weeks and months, The Bee will be examining the key issues surrounding realignment. To start things off, we unveil The Bee’s first attempt (many more will follow) to solve the realignment puzzle.

Note: The numbers in parentheses represent student enrollment based on the 2014-15 school year. In most cases, that number will rise or drop dramatically by the 2018-19 school year.

The Modesto Bee's Joe Cortez and James Burns discuss their ideas for realignment for the Sac-Joaquin Section athletic programs.

Modesto Metro Conference – Since the MMC probably will cease to exist as we know it, we’ll probably have to give it a new name ... something like the Stanislaus County League. It will consist of Modesto (2,392), Enochs (2,375), Gregori (2,227), Downey (1,909), Turlock (2,220) and Pitman (2,140).

Beyer, Johansen and Davis get relocated.

The Turlock schools, which have become too large for the CCC, quickly will establish their dominance in this league.

Central California Conference – The core of the CCC will remain intact, with the exception of adding El Capitan (1,580) for the upcoming school year (a move that was planned long ago). Merced County schools Pacheco (1,497) and Los Banos (1,320) get promoted to the CCC, even though it’s the last thing they want.

The CCC then becomes reclassified as a Division II conference.

If adding the Los Banos schools to the CCC seems like a strange fit, consider that Merced schools figure to have enrollments around 1,700 by the realignment year. Atwater will have the largest enrollment, near 1,800.

All of this becomes a moot point if the Merced-Atwater schools relocate to the Central Section. Rumors have swirled that those five are angling for a move south, where they’d be better equipped to compete for section titles.

The whole plan goes up in smoke if this happens.

Western Athletic Conference – Johansen (1,775), Beyer (1,753) and Davis (1,556) land here. Mountain House also gains entry.

Beyer’s basketball team would love to get out of the shadow of Modesto Christian, while the baseball team benefits from not having to battle St. Mary’s in the playoffs. WAC holdovers Patterson (1,722), Ceres (1,693) and Central Valley (1,684) remain.

Patterson and Central Valley are growing so fast that a move to the MMC may be in order, but for now, they stick, in a league reclassified as D-II.

The three Modesto schools would fit in the Valley Oak League, enrollment-wise, but the VOL may be tougher than the MMC in many ways.

The Modesto Bee's Joe Cortez and James Burns discuss their ideas for realignment for the Sac-Joaquin Section athletic programs.

Valley Oak League – This one is pretty easy to figure out. Kimball is out and will join the other Tracy schools, and the VOL becomes a seven-team league. Mountain House actually wants to be a member of the VOL since it would mean less travel.

In its current league (TVL), Mountain House travels about 205 miles for five league games. In a revamped VOL, the Mustangs would travel 187 miles for seven league games. In a revamped WAC, it would travel about 237 miles for six league games. Extended travel is what Mountain House is looking to get away from. Perhaps it would be better off heading north to compete with the Stockton and Tracy schools.

Trans-Valley League – Another simple one: Mountain House moves out and is replaced by Livingston. Orestimba also comes aboard.

Livingston (1,123) wants a seat at the TVL table, and the TVL has already dusted off a chair. Though they’d instantly be the loop’s largest program, the Wolves are a nice fit. Orestimba (783) has just gotten too big for the Southern League.

Mother Lode League – Calaveras (1,063), Sonora (979), Bret Harte (686), Summerville (681), Linden (668), Amador (628) and Argonaut (577) remain together … in our proposal. My hunch is Sonora will be asked to relocate. Remember, during the last cycle, nobody in the MLL wanted Sonora. If the Wildcats do get kicked to the curb, the VOL – their old home – or even the TVL would be logical landing spots.

Another potential headache would be the possible merger of Amador and Argonaut, an idea that’s been bandied about for a while now. A merger immediately would make “Argodor” the biggest school in the loop and probably force a shakeup since Calaveras, Sonora and “Argodor” would be so much larger than Bret Harte, Summerville and Linden.

Southern League – Another easy one. Orestimba leaves and is replaced by Riverbank, ready to join a league after being an independent for a few years.

Central California Athletic Alliance – This league stays the same for Stanislaus District members Big Valley Christian, Turlock Christian and Stone Ridge Christian.