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SJS tweaks postseason formats

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POSTED August 29, 2014 12:17 a.m.

LODI — Leagues are realigned.

A new commissioner has taken up his new post.

And, of course, more changes to the playoffs.

The 2014-15 season is officially underway in the Sac-Joaquin Section. The SJS hosted its annual media day event Thursday to discuss changes that have taken place and more. 

Several tweaks have been made to the postseason formats of several sports.

In football, the section added a seventh division to the field consisting of only six teams from two leagues: the Sacramento Metropolitan Athletic League and the Central California Athletic Alliance.

The remainder of the section’s 72-team field is made up of 44 automatic qualifiers — the top two in each conference except for the mighty Delta and Sierra Foothill leagues, which advance three apiece — and 28 at-large based on total number wins. There will still be 16-team brackets in Divisions I-III, while Divisions IV-VI are now comprised of eight each.

Also, the SJS playoff committee is no longer using win totals as a strong guide to seed teams. More emphasis will be made on strength of schedule (opponents’ wins) and strength of leagues.

The bottom line, according to SJS Director of Communications Will DeBoard: “We want the best teams playing each other in the end, not in the first or second rounds.”

Basketball in the SJS underwent the biggest change in 2013-14 with the abolition of the old power ratings system.

This year, teams will no longer know which divisions they will be placed in until the completion of the regular season. The format as a whole will resemble the section’s system for football. A pool of schools from Divisions I-IV will be broken up according to enrollment with another pool created for the smaller Division V-VI schools.

In the larger brackets, the top three teams in each league (the SFL and Delta qualify four each) make it through. Also advancing are any teams that place outside the top three (or top four in the SFL and Delta) but ranked in the top 12 by MaxPreps in the Division I-IV pool. The same goes for teams ranked in the top eight for Division V-VI.

Go ahead and call this the “Woodcreek Rule.” Highly ranked by MaxPreps last year, Woodcreek failed to qualify despite notching more than 20 wins because it placed fourth in a competitive league.

Meanwhile, less deserving teams advanced. Ripon, for example, placed fourth in the Trans-Valley League and finished with an 8-20 overall record but benefitted from the “top-nine rule,” which allowed the nine leagues with the best postseason winning percentages from the previous three seasons to qualify a fourth team.

This rule originally created for basketball is now applied to baseball, softball and boys and girls soccer. This bodes well for the five local schools that make up the majority of the VOL, which has fared well in the postseason in these sports in recent years. The addition of Central Catholic certainly strengthens the league, so a fourth qualifier would be appropriate.

This is the only change for baseball and soccer. Baseball divisions are still broken up by leagues, while soccer continues to roll with the enrollment-based breakdown used for football.

Postseason softball and volleyball, however, have changed. As is the case for football, soccer and now basketball, brackets will not be determined until after the final pool of playoff qualifiers is set. From there, brackets are broken up according to enrollment.

In tennis, the VOL now has a stronger chance at reaching the SJS Team Tournament Finals. The section has created a third division that includes the VOL, Western Athletic Conference and Tri-County Conference.  In Division II, schools from the southern half of the section struggled to keep up with the historically competitive programs from the Sacramento area. A separate coed division remains in place in the spring for smaller schools like Ripon and Ripon Christian.

Meet the commish

Mike Garrison met with media for the first time as the new commissioner for the SJS. He replaces Pete Saco, who officially retires Saturday after 21 years as the section’s commissioner. 

“In all my years always have had fingers in high school athletics and I’m fortunate to have this job,” he said.

Formerly a coach and athletic director at Princeton and Rocklin high schools, Garrison has and still holds several positions for the SJS and CIF. He is a member of the CIF State Executive Committee and the CIF State Federated Council. He is also the Northern California basketball tournament director and on the CIF State Governance and Basketball Advisory Committees.

Cannon fodder

Residents near Ripon High’s Stouffer Field could once again hear the rumble of cannon blasts on Friday nights.

The tradition of firing cannons after touchdowns and victories were banned a year ago. The complaints were heard loud and clear.

“We got a lot of calls about that,” DeBoard said.

The section’s Board of Managers decided to lift the ban but added stipulations. First, leagues must approve the use of cannons before individual schools can use them. Also, in the name of sportsmanship, cannons may not be fired when touchdowns are scored under running clocks.

Talkin’ about practice

The CIF now limits teams of all sports to 18 hours worth of practices and game events per week, and four days maximum per day. Individual contests, day-long tournaments and doubleheaders each count as three hours. Teams are also forbidden to hold two-a-day practices on consecutive days.

Rules affecting football practices in the offseason and in-season will take into affect on Jan. 1, 2015. Only two full-contact practices lasting a maximum of 90 minutes each are allowed during the season. Contact practices and camps in the offseason are forbidden.

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