For the millionth time, should public and private have separate playoff divisions in basketball? CIF shares interesting data from last ten years

L.A. Times prep legend Eric Sondheimer pointed out in a recent article that 17 of 20 teams that participated in last week’s state basketball finals in Sacramento were private schools. It raises the age-old argument of whether public and private schools should have separate playoff divisions. I always have maintained that the CIF-Southern Section playoffs should separate public vs. private, simply because public and private schools have a far different set of rules in terms of acquiring students. Public schools must take players from within certain geographic boundaries, whereas private school boundaries are limitless. Because of this, enrollment figures don’t mean anything. I’m sure Cal Poly Pomona has more students than Duke, but that doesn’t give them an advantage. Maybe a bad example, but you get the point. There are several other differences, some of which cancel each other out in a debate, but the bottom line is the playing field isn’t level. The only time public and private should meet in the postseason is during the state playoffs, because as a fan, at this point I do want to watch the best-of-the best go at it to crown a true state champion. But in the CIF-SS playoffs, public schools deserve to face public schools in divisions where enrollment and school boundaries should mean something. Plus it might help heal the animosity some public school coaches have with private school powerhouses. The system is what’s at fault here, not the powerhouses. In this week’s CIF press release, the Southern Section sent out statistical data of how private schools have done in CIF-SS championships over the past ten years …

From CIF
CIF-SS private school basketball championship results over the past ten years.

– 60 titles won out of a possible of 106 (57%)
– 31 different private schools have won titles over that time (15% of all private schools)
– 15 of those schools have won multiple titles (48% of the 31 and 7% of all private schools)
– 7 of those schools have won more than 3 titles during that time (23% of the 31 and 3% of the private school membership)
– 47 of the 60 private school titles have come in Division 3A or below (78%).
– In 2011, 128 schools of the 208 total schools in those divisions were private (61%).

– 57 titles won out of a possible of 106 (57%)
– 33 different private schools have won titles over that ti me (16% of all private schools)
– 17 of those schools have won multiple titles (51% of the 31 and 8% of all private schools)
– 4 of those schools have won more than 3 titles during that time (12% of the 31 and 2% of the private
school membership)
– 45 of the 57 private school titles have come in Division 3A or below (79%).
– In 2011, 113 schools of the 192 total schools in those divisions were private (59%).

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  • the best idea

    instead of separate divisions, they should force the private schools into 1 of 2 divisions. the best private schools should all play in the top division (1aa) and the rest of the private schools should play in the lowest division (6a)lets leave all the middle divisions for the public schools, who all compete on a level playing court. they should also do something similar to this in football as well.

  • Disagree

    Although private schools have a different pool of players…there are advantages and disadvantages. Some parents simply can’t afford to send their kids to private. And for those who may receive a scholarship in to the school, those are also far andd few between as schools (especially private) are hit hard by the economy and can’t provide schoarships as enrollment is down. (I would like to see the statistics in student enrollments increase/decrease over the last ten years).

    In addition, many public schools house talent from non local areas. The parents transferred their kids in to the area the start of the freshmen year or can do the CIF freebie pass after their freshman year. Parents can also declare change of address, etc. I am thinking of several public schools that competed at very high levels this year that had athletes on their team and not from the schools respective area.

    Lastly, this is a statistic for basketball. Should CIF change the rules just because of one sport? Those stats are compelling but I could produce similar stats for girls volleyball/waterpolo (girls or boys) and schools that won from public beach schools verses non beach schools private or public.

    Just one view point…..

  • Cry Baby

    Fred, Are you suggesting separate but equal!

    You are really out in left field for this article!

  • 12th man

    If you change it for basketball..then you have to change it for every sport!~

  • Steve Ramirez

    This one of the few times Fred and I disagree. I don’t think we have to go the public-private, separate but equal route. The current system, which was adopted a few years ago will eventually put the all the programs that continue to win in the elite division. I think you have to start with enrollment as a base, and if you win, you move up. If you don’t win, you move down. I believe the current system places each team in the their current division, then gives them a point for each playoff win over a five-year period. If you are winning your division or going to the finals every year, you move up, maybe one,two divisions. Right now, because the format is still young, it still gives the privates an advantage, but eventually, if those programs continue to win, they will be placed in the elite division, while those who keep getting five or less points, will move down until they level off. I think it’s a better model then some of the other team sports, who look at the overall strength of the league. Just a thought.

  • Joe Amat


    You, as well as anyone, know the statement you wrote, “…Public schools must take players from within certain geographic boundaries, whereas private school boundaries are limitless.” is a crock. If that were true you know we would have an entirely different landscape in public school success within the Fish Bowl over the past decade and more.

    Los Altos, Glendora, and South Hills have all benefited from athletes that attend from outside their “geographic boundaries in several sports. Charter Oak would not be in the Sierra League because there’s a pretty good chance their back-to-back CIF titles may not have occurred.

    The statistics you quote just may defeat your own point, because it proves we are talking about a VERY small number of private schools that are doing the winning, and maybe more strongly presents the case not to change anything because numbers are about what they should be.

    In Boys, you said 60 titles have been won by 31 schools, and 15 have won multiple championships, and SEVEN schools (only 3% of the private school membership has won more than 3 titles each). 78% of those titles are in D3A or below – where a majority of schools are private schools and a minority of public schools live. The Girls numbers are nearly identical.

    You’re suggesting major changes for what amounts to 3-7% of the Private schools? In what way is that equitable to the other 93-97% of the private schools?

    Trivia time: Now if we’re talking sections above D3A, guess which was the last San Gabriel Valley school to win a Boys Basketball CIF-SS Championship? (I get to ask that one for at least another year)

    But I will give you a hint…it was the year AFTER Glendora HS won their CIF Championship with an MVP transfer from Upland, a starting PG transfer form South Hills, and a starting guard from Chino Hills that rode with Coach LeDuc to school some days (alledgely) and two others I’m pretty sure were out of the attendance area, I just can’t pinpoint the cities. Now what were you saying about public schools and “geographic areas”?

    Finally, the point below about changing for basketball means changing for all sports. Here’s some final stats from the Press Release to stew over that could put things to rest for you.

    The Southern Section’s most recent comprehensive study that included all sports from 1980-2008 found that while private schools comprised 39 percent of Southern Section membership, private schools had won only 19 percent of Southern Section championships in 22 Southern Section sports.

    So the reality is that over time, private schools have actually won FEWER championships than the percentage of CIF membership which they represent.

    I do have a simple solution/compromise that you;ll get to read after someone answers the trivia question. (cue the Bart Scott voice) “Can’t wait!”

  • Don

    It’s hard for me to support anything that dilutes the championship process but hey, if you guys think it would be better to have two sets of champs have at it.

    For that matter why not have championships for everyone: Catholic Champs, Lutheran Champs, Secular Agnostic Champs. You could have championships for the Yeshivas and the Unitarians too. Everyone a winner, trophies for all. Just like AYSO.

  • AMAT 73

    Joe AMAT,
    You couldn’t possibly be referring to AMAT as the last SGV team to win a CIF championship could you .

  • Steve Ramirez

    It’s kind of a bogus question, because Lutheran is a 2011 state “major division” champ, as Joe Amat would put it. But yes, the answer is Amat, which was led by John Haywood that year.
    I still say CIF-SS has the right playoff model, which eventually will put all the elite programs in the elite division if they continue to be elite.

  • SGV for 30 Years

    I have commented on this Private vs. Public debate. Here is my take. First of all the playing field will never be level. The private schools should be better. They have an unlimited talent pool to choose from. Joe Amat would have us believe that transfering schools is a simple process. Well it’s not as easy as he makes it sound. Some home districts aren’t allowing students to leave for other districts. Rowland just won a lawsuit against the Walnut District accusing Walnut of recruiting students away from their district. CIF is deathly affraid of the private schools and their money. Didn’t Damien file a law suit against CIF a few years back so they wouldn’t have to go to the Catholic School League? When was the last time a public school was able to do that?
    Has anyone ever checked to see how many Amat, Damien, LaVerne Lutheran, Or St. Lucys students actually live within 2 miles of those schools? I would be curious to know those numbers. Most of us public schools have to play with who ever shows up at our door. Joe Amat mentions all the transfers that Los Altos, South Hills, and Charter Oak have gotten over their football championship years, point taken That’s 3 SGV schools. What about the others. How many transfers do the other schools get? Remember this FOOTBALL runs the show when it comes to re-leaguing. What ever decisions are made are to benifit them.
    If a private school decides they want to get to the next level, they can just go out and hire a high profile coach with connections and it’s a done deal. Who ever heard of LaVerne Lutheran 5 years ago. Where will they be in 4 years? Amat football is another good example. They were in shambles just 4 years ago. New coach, new focus, simple(fundamental)approach.
    Private vs Public level playing field is never gonna happen. Are we to the point where the privates need their own play-offs? I don’t think so. They just have to get use to the fact that when it comes to private vs public. The publics will alway be the underdog, and we all love to pull for the underdog.

    SGV430 Ouuuttt!!!!!