Aiming to reduce travel time and expenses, the CIF beginning this fall will use a more geographic-centric model when assigning the regional playoffs. Gone is the format used last year that predetermined which Central Section champions would participate in the Northern California Regionals of the state playoffs.
The CIF will instead slot the most-northern schools among Central Section and Southern Section champions when determining which three teams will be bumped to the NorCal regional. The remaining champions from those sections will continue competing in the SoCal region.
“All we’re doing is giving ourselves more flexibility and making it a little easier for visiting schools and their fan base to travel to their game,” said Ron Nocetti, the CIF associate executive director who oversees the football regional/state playoffs.
“We won’t sacrifice the best matchups for travel,” Nocetti said. “But we want to make the regional playoff matchups a little closer for teams.”
To determine the regional/state playoff brackets that follow the section finals, the CIF takes into account a team’s record and strength of schedule of the section champs, then slots each team into one of 12 divisions before assigning matchups and home-field advantage.
3 Number of schools from either the Central Section or Southern Section that will be assigned to the Northern California Regionals for the CIF State football playoffs beginning this season. Last year, the Central Section had three divisional champs preassigned to compete in the NorCal regionals.
But because there are fewer schools and section champions from the northern part of the state compared to the south, three additional teams from the Southern Region were needed to compete in the Northern Region to balance the brackets.
Last year, the CIF split the Central Section in half and prior to the season assigned the Divisions I, III and V champs to the NorCal regionals, while Divisions II, IV and VI champions remained in the SoCal regionals.
As it played out, Chowchilla, one of the most northerly schools in the section, competed in the SoCal regionals, and Liberty-Bakersfield, at the south end of the section, competed in the NorCal regionals. The travel was cumbersome for their opponents with Fairfax-Los Angeles trekking 252 miles to play at Chowchilla and Del Oro-Loomis traveling 305 miles to play at Liberty.
In addition, Hanford was assigned to the NorCal regionals and bussed 143 miles to Sonora.
With the new rule, you cut down a team’s travel time and it becomes a little more convenient for fans because the games will be closer in proximity.
Central Section commissioner Jim Crichlow
“It became a logistical nightmare,” Central Section commissioner Jim Crichlow said. “With the new rule, you cut down a team’s travel time and it becomes a little more convenient for fans because the games will be closer in proximity. And bigger gates and bigger receipts means more money for the schools and a better atmosphere.”
Crichlow and several coaches and athletic directors in the Central Section have long desired and pushed for the section to compete in the NorCal regionals for all sports. Crichlow made such a proposal five years ago to the CIF.
While the Central Section’s regional realignment request never has been fully embraced by other sections, the current football postseason model at the regional/state level has given the Central Section a better chance to go deeper into the playoffs while avoiding the usually tougher path in the SoCal bracket.
Hanford, competing in the NorCal regionals, won the CIF State Division IV-AA. And Immanuel, which also competed in the NorCal regionals, finished state runner-up in D V-AA. Chowchilla was the Central Section’s lone school that competed in the SoCal regionals and reached the state title game, finishing runner-up in D IV-A.
“I think by the time we’re in the (Central Section) semifinals, coaches and schools will have a feel for whether they’re competing in the Northern California regionals if they make it that far,” Crichlow said. “But mostly, they’ll all know if they’re the away team that they won’t have to go a bazillions miles to play in the regionals.”
Key high school football dates
CENTRAL SECTION ACTION
- Monday: First day team allowed to practice
- Aug. 25-26-27: Week 0 action
- Nov. 4: Regular-season finale
- Nov. 11: Central Section playoffs begin
- Dec. 2-3: Central Section championships
- Dec. 9-10: CIF State Regional games
- Dec. 16-17: CIF State Bowl championships