San Bernardino Valley College football coach Pat Meech knows his school lacks the resources to compete weekly against the more traditional powers in Southern California. Now he doesn’t have to do so.
The junior college season will kick off this week and the entire conference structure and playoff format has been reworked. The Foothill Conference no longer exists. Adios Mission Conference. Sayonara Western State Conference.
The sport will now be governed under the umbrella of the Southern California Football Association.
Teams are separated into two divisions – the National and American. The National is subdivided into three seven-team conferences (Northern, Central, Southern) while the American has two eight-team conferences (Mountain, Pacific).
The National Division, the power conference, includes perennial title contenders such as Mt. SAC, Bakersfield and former Foothill Conference juggernaut Grossmont. Chaffey, Riverside and Citrus are among the other entrants.
SBVC and Victor Valley factor into the weaker American Divsion. But Meech doesn’t mind being lumped into the also-ran category.
“Am I afraid of those schools? No. I would like to play them,” he said. “But it would be crazy to think we can go head-to-head with those teams week after week after week.”
Veteran Chaffey coach Carl Beach, who was on the committee that developed the new alignment, isn’t quite sure his team is ready to battle the big boys, citing resources and enrollment but admits past success is the reason his school has been put in with the stronger teams.
“It’s more about what we have done in the past. I’m not so sure we belong there but we’ll see,” he said.
The alignments will be reviewed every two years with some teams moving up or down depending on competitive balance.
A similar format has been used in the Northern part of the state for several years and received a favorable review.
When it comes to picking a field for the playoffs, eight teams will be chosen. Each of the three National Division conference will be given two spots for a total of six teams.
The American Division would qualify the winner of each conference for the final two spots, provided those teams finish with winning records. If a conference winner is not above .500, a wild-card would be chosen based on state power ranking.
There will be three additional bowl games for teams not making the playoffs to be awarded based on state ranking.
The original plan called for four teams to make the playoffs with all of those coming from the power division. The lesser schools balked at that idea so the current format was a compromise.
Beach said the committee wanted to get the new system in place. This one primarily divided teams based on their competitive history.
When the alignment is addressed again in two years he said more emphasis will be placed on enrollment, particularly a school’s ability to draw out-of-state athletes. Resources and facilities will also be issues.
“I think it’s fair,” Meech added. “It will be good for us to play teams more like us.”
Teams in the American Division will have seven conference games, then fill out their schedule with three games against the National Division, giving them a chance to boost their power ranking and see if they are competitive against those teams.
SBVC’s nonconference foes will be Riverside, College of the Desert and Saddleback. The Wolverines have played Riverside 68 times, the first coming in 1926 but haven’t faced the Tigers since 2002.
Victor Valley’s opponents will be Riverside, Palomar and Mt. SAC.
Rams coach Dave Hoover was alright with the division of the teams but isn’t happy with his brutal nonconference schedule.
“Not only are we probably playing the three best teams, we’re playing the three most physical teams,” he said. “It was a nice idea having the big dogs play the big dogs. It all makes sense. But their nonconference games should be against the teams in their divison in the other conferences.”
Chaffey and the other teams in the National Division have six conference games and four non-conference contests.
The Panthers will square off against Mt. San Jacinto, Southwestern, Antelope Valley and Grossmont – all significantly longer trips than treking 20 minutes to SBVC.
While SBVC is excited about renewing its rivalry with Riverside, it is mystified why Chaffey wasn’t included on the non-conference schedule since rivalries were also supposed to be kept in tact. That also baffles Beach.
Coaches were allowed to submit a list of three teams they wanted to keep games with and both SBVC and Chaffey listed the other as their top choice.
“It doesn’t make sense. We have to pass them by to go to all out other games,” Beach said.
Hoover asked to keep Antelope Valley, Desert and Chaffey and got none of those.
Northern Conference: Allan Hancock, Bakersfield, College of the Canyons, Glendale, Moopark, Pasadena City, Ventura
Central Conference: Cerritos,Chaffey, Citrus, College of the Desert, El Camino, Mt. SAC, Riverside
Southern Conference: Fullerton, Grossmont, Long Beach City, Orange Coast, Palomar, Saddleback, Santa Ana
Mountain Conference: Compton, Golden West, L.A. Harbor, Mt. San Jacinto, San Bernardino Valley,San Diego Mesa, Southwestern, Victor Valley
Pacific Conference: Antelope Valley, East Los Angeles, L.A. Pierce, L.A. Southwest, L.A. Valley,Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, West Los Angeles