LODI — Football may still be king, but there are definitely some chinks showing up in its armor.
Although the gridiron accounts for 40 percent of Sac-Joaquin Section playoff revenues — nearly five times as much as any other sport besides basketball — both revenues and participation are declining, with 12 percent less taking the field this year than in 2007.
But those still playing the game are in for some changes in the Sac-Joaquin Section this season. A revamped format for postseason football was among the items discussed Thursday during the annual Media Day event held at the section office.
Like last year, 78 teams will qualify for the playoffs, but the brackets will not be the same. Divisions I-III used to be 16 team brackets with Divisions IV-VI having eight-team brackets followed by Division VII with six teams. Division VII will still have six teams, but Divisions I-VI will be 12 team brackets with the top four teams in each division getting a bye. And unlike years past, all divisions will have their championships on the same weekend with this year’s coming on Thanksgiving weekend.
The requirements for making the playoffs has changed. Gone are the overall record-based qualifiers with a minimum of two league wins, and the number of automatic qualifiers in each league has been decreased.
The only automatic qualifiers this year will be league champions and after that the remaining slots will be determine by computer rankings established by Calpreps.com. There is no minimum league-win requirement but at-large teams must have four overall wins.
The game tie-breaker will be changed from four downs from the 10-yard line to first and 10 from the 25-yard line.
Other changes in place this year:
• Wrestling will have a new twist this year with the boys and girls competing in a joint three-day state championship tournament at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield. The SJS had planned on holding the boys and girls Masters Championships together at the Stockton Arena, but that venue is not available. The section is still searching for a suitable location.
• The SJS championships in basketball will move from the University of the Pacific to Sacramento’s Golden1 Center, and the section Masters track meet will be relocated from Elk Grove High to a location to be determined. The track at Elk Grove is getting resurfaced.
• There was $30,500 given to 49 Dale Lacky Scholarship recipients in 2018 and the funding source for those scholarships was the SJS Foundation games in volleyball and basketball with half of the gate from those games going to the Section. There will be 63 Foundation games played Monday with local games featuring Ripon at Central Catholic, Weston Ranch at Edison, Manteca at Modesto, Ripon Christian at Modesto Christian, Lathrop at Sierra and East Union at West.
• In the spirit of transparency, the SJS web site (cifsjs.org) has listed current and recent transfers by school and individually under the governance tab. Those transfer athletes required to sit out before competing will now have to sit out 50 percent of the season as opposed to having hard-and-fast dates for all sports.
• Juniors will now be permitted to play on lower-level teams in all sports for a true junior varsity and may move up and down from JV to varsity and back until league play begins. After that, players can only move up to varsity and not back down to JV.