By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer
Until this season, fans of a team fortunate enough to reach the semifinals in their respective CIF-Southern Section playoff divisions would have the opportunity to go see not only their teams play, but their possible opponent in the championship game, too. Take, for example, the Mid-Valley Division this year. Under the previous set-up, the Monrovia-Covina game would be Friday night, giving fans of San Gabriel and San Dimas an opportunity to go watch. The following night on Saturday, San Gabriel and San Dimas would play, with likely a nice contingent from the Monrovia-Covina winner on hand to see who they’re going to get in the final.
This was Rio Hondo Prep players’ reaction after losing in the semifinals in 2009 at Covina District Field. It’s one of the all-time great photos and shows how emotional the win-or-go-home games can be.
What happened? The short answer is: blame the football coaches.
According to CIF-SS Director of Information Thom Simmons, the Southern Section football coaches advisory committee decided to get rid of the Friday/Saturday format in order to put both games on Friday night.
“It was brought up at one of the football coaches advisory committee meetings and the feeling was football Friday nights are football Friday nights for a reason,” Simmons said. “The games are played on Friday nights and very few are played on Saturdays. The feeling was let’s keep those games on Friday nights.
“The second reason was, if you play on that Saturday and your championship is the following Friday, that’s a short week for you and an unfair advantage for the team in the other part of the bracket who played on Friday. The coaches wanted to level that playing field and in that meeting they voted unanimously to make them both Friday night.”
The decision certainly won’t help the CIF-SS financially. With games on different nights, it allowed for more people to attend both. But Simmons pointed out that the casual fan of no team in particular who just likes to go watch games is a dying breed, and he won’t know just what type of financial impact not playing the game on separate days has until after this week’s games.
“I don’t think there is a casual football observer anymore,” Simmons said in reference to declining numbers at CIF-SS sporting events, including football, the top draw. “Our numbers don’t indicate that there are. There seems to a very school-specific base that goes to these games. The only guys that are really those casual football observers are those guys on your blogs and for the most part they’re going to go to the same game that night anyway. They’re not going to another game.
“If there’s one thing here at CIF that we get accused of, it’s being money hungry. If that’s the case, then why would we ever cut our gate?”
The good news for fans interested in games beside the one they’re attending is that modern technology, like this newspaper’s weekly Coveritlive broadcasts with Mike “The Cousin” Robledo, allow them to follow the action elsewhere by using their smartphones. Fans can also keep other fans abreast of the action taking place at the game they’re attending.