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Sac-Joaquin Section unveils proposal for new playoff system

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POSTED January 10, 2009 12:25 a.m.
LODI – Just two days after revealing its realignment proposal, the Sac-Joaquin Section capped a big week by presenting a revamped playoff system that could end up taking into affect as early as next year.
During the section’s playoff committee meeting, formed out of the realignment project, representatives from various leagues voiced their concerns and asked questions about a proposed plan that will seed teams that earned postseason berths.
The plan, if approved, should be fully implemented by 2014 for sports like football, boys and girls soccer, girls and coed team tennis, baseball, and softball.
But the proposal also called for a complete overhaul of the playoff system for all of the section’s sports – ranging from water polo to diving.
The bulk of the discussion, however, focused on how the area’s football teams will be broken up into 16-team brackets, doubling the current format of eight, in the Division III and IV playoffs, which will extend the average season to 14 weeks — excluding the California Interscholastic Federation State Championships held in Carson in December.
The proposal aims to fix what many feel are problems with the current system that allows undeserving teams to qualify for the postseason.
This past fall, Manteca High’s football team was edged out of the playoffs despite finishing 8-2 overall (5-2 in the competitive Valley Oak League), while fellow Division IV Foothill of Sacramento advanced with a 2-8 record. Rocklin, Roseville and Turlock also wrapped up the regular season at 8-2.
Currently, each league is allotted a pre-determined number of playoff berths. In the recent football season, the VOL had just two qualifiers, and the CVC and the Pioneer Valley League had three each in Division IV.
Manteca High principal Steve Winter, who serves on the playoff committee,  said the new system would help ensure that more deserving teams are in the playoffs in the future.
“If it was just based on wins and losses last year, we would have made it, and the opportunity to make it to the playoffs is an honor for any team – especially when you win eight games and have to sit at home,” Winter said. “This would definitely help resolve that issue, and improve the overall post-season competition.”
Local Division III and IV teams will fall into a bracket comprised of the Capital Athletic League, the Solano County Athletic Conference, the Tri-County Conference, the Capital Valley Conference, the Pioneer Valley League, the Mother Lode League, the Trans Valley League, the Western Athletic Conference, and the Valley Oak League.
Each respective division will have 20 automatic qualifiers, comprising of league champions and runner-ups, and 12 at-large bids that will be determined by using a new formula.
The largest 16 schools, based on the previous year’s enrollment, will compete in the Division III playoffs, while the next 16 will be placed in the Division IV bracket.
For Division V and VI there will be eight automatic qualifiers and four at-large teams.
In case of ties for a particular seed, the following criteria will be applied in order: Head-to-head finish, league standing, combined wins of all opponents and Calpreps.com rankings.
Rather than relying on a committee system to determine the strength of schedule for the seeding process, commissioner Pete Saco said that the section wants to do something that takes personal feelings and prejudices out of the equation, relying simply instead win-loss records.
“We’re trying to take the human element out and go strictly by the numbers,” Saco said. “We don’t believe that we should have staff or volunteers taking on the task of seeding this tournament.”
According to the proposal, the largest 16 schools in the area based on enrollment will be placed in Division III, while the remaining 16 will be classified as Division IV.
For more information about the SJS realignment or the playoff proposals, visit the section website at www.cifsjs.org

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