Basketball playoff format changed, private/public school thoughts

Lost in the hoopla of the Southern California regional semifinals Thursday – which saw a whopping four county girls teams play – was a development at the CIF-Southern Section offices in Long Beach, as the section’s basketball playoff format will be revised.

An article outlining the change in philosophies can be read here. To paraphrase this article, there will be 12 different divisions – a mark up from 10 – with the divisions initially divided by enrollment. However, there is a qualifier which will move teams up and down based on playoff performance over the previous four years. It’s that point which I will expound on.

On the surface, its better than the current system. As much as Sunkist League fans might have enjoyed Jurupa Valley and Patriot playing in the Division IV-AA boys final a couple of weeks ago, the fact they those schools – with enrollments of 2,819 (Jurupa) and 3,097 (Patriot) – are matched up with Hesperia Christian, which has 492 students total in grades K-12. Basically the Sunkist schools are given a relatively easy ride because they stunk against schools their size. It gives them a chance at a title against schools which much fewer resources. The smaller schools then suffer, as they don’t get a fair shot at a title.

As far as I’m concerned, the Southern Section playoff brackets should be enrollment-based and that’s it (with a different stipulation for private schools that I’ll explain below). The big schools should go against schools their size, with smaller schools going against smaller schools. It’s simple and its how every state I’ve worked in (Michigan, Illinois and Texas for those counting at home) conducts business. If you stink against schools your size, you try your best to improve your program. Winning CIF championships should be a privilege that comes from hard work, a stable program and a little luck, not because you stink so bad against schools your size that you get put against schools much smaller enrollments and much fewer resources. While lowering a team in a division gives the team being lowered a better chance to win, it also creates a disadvantage for the smaller schools that have to fight an uphill battle to compete with the Patriots and Jurupa Valleys. Usually the best solution is the simplest, and enrollment-based divisions would be just that.

The other issue touched in the attached article is the public/private school separation debate, with a vote on the issue set for April 24. This issue is more of a city/Orange County subject than an IE one, as the county’s prominent Christian schools (Aquinas, Ontario Christian, ACA) are on the small side and don’t tend to produce Parade or McDonald’s All-Americans. The closest our area has to the Mater Deis, Oaks Christians and Servites of the world is Damien. However, schools like Damien and Mater Dei have the opportunity to recruit athletes and can manage and raise athletic funds without a school district or school regulating the distrubution of the funds. Therefore, private schools have to be dealt with differently because they play under a different set of rules. But what is the best way to do that?

Different states have different thoughts on this. The popular sentiment right now is to just seperate private schools completely, something that Texas (with the exception of schools that apply to be in the highest enrollment bracket) does. In Illinois, there is a multiplier which is applied to a private schools which bumps them up to a higher division. That multiplier of 1.65 took effect in 2005. For example, Mater Dei’s enrollment of 2309 students would turn into 3810 with the multiplier, bumping them up a few divisions.

If I had my druthers, I’d probably choose the qualifier, but I believe that the seperation of public and private is better than the status quo. Let me know what you think of that, plus any other solutions that you might have toward this and the enrollment debates.