It’s just not fair. I go to Miramonte, and our girls won the NCS title and beat Bishop O’Dowd. But because O’Dowd lost, they got to play in Division III and won a state championship. We had to play in the Open Division and got beat in the NorCal finals. So how is it right that O’Dowd gets to brag about being a state champion when we beat them in NCS?
There are two parts to a simple answer: It isn’t right, and life isn’t fair – but as always, there’s more to the story.
The Open Division was designed to separate schools that have the opportunity to recruit, and/or have traditionally strong, well-supported programs, from those that are either unable (or unwilling) to recruit and are not perennial powerhouses. In theory, it’s great, because teams like Mater Dei and Long Beach Poly from down south and teams like St. Mary’s of Stockton and Sacred Heart Cathedral from the north operate at a different level than schools like Santiago or Liberty.
But the devil, as always, is in the details, and by picking eight teams for the Open from the north, that pretty much dooms six or seven of them to also-ran status, and gives teams nine through 12 — who play in their own divisions against non-Open teams from Southern California — a much better shot at winning a California title.
So here are two possible solutions:
1) Just take four teams into the Open. Realistically, only four teams from each region have a legitimate shot at winning it all. There might be an unusual year with five candidates, but usually there are two or three. This year, in the north, it was pretty much St. Mary’s of Stockton and everyone else, and Miramonte would have been stuck in the Open even with four teams, but that leads to …
2) Only the teams picked for the Open Division can play for a state title. All other divisions finish their season in the regional championships, so in this case, for example, O’Dowd’s last game would have been against Vanden for the NorCal title, and that would have been it. By not qualifying for the Open, the chances for a California banner on the wall are gone.
There are a lot of advantages to this. First, it takes away any hint that a team might try to lose in section playoffs so it could avoid being bumped to the Open. Second, it delivers a true state champion, as it’s very unlikely the Division V winner would stand much of a chance against the Open winner – or even the Open semifinalists. So, some have said, why is it right that the players and coaches on the Division V winner can make the same claim as the Open Division winner (“We’re the champs”) when the Open team is very likely so much better?
Combining the two proposals would be the optimal solution, with any team that qualifies for the Open getting a big banner to hang in the gym from the state and other special treatment (every Open game is televised, say).
Of course, this is just another beautiful theory that will be assaulted by some ugly facts, in this case the TV deal CIF has struck with Comcast. Comcast shows 12 state championship games, and instead would have just two – unless someone could convince Comcast that the regional title games for the lower divisions would draw just as many viewers.
Given that, don’t expect any major changes in the near future, especially as this system is better than the one that preceded it – and remember, no system is perfect, in basketball or in life.
By Clay Kallam
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