CIFSS Proposal To Change Bowl Format Doesn’t Work For Rest of State

Sacramento Grant head coach Mike Alberghini gets a Gatorade bath as his 2008 team is about to beat Long Beach Poly in first CIF Open Division football bowl game. Photo by Scott Kurtz.

We’ve seen at least a few prep sportswriters around the state say that they’d like to see the CIF scrap the new regional bowl games. We don’t agree. Check back Thursday for this week’s State Stat Stars of the Week.

By Mark Tennis, Editor

A proposal coming before the CIF Federated Council at the end of the month that would completely revamp the CIF post-season football bowl structure doesn’t look to have the support needed for it to pass.

The proposal — which is coming through the Southwestern League (Vista Murrieta, Temecula Chaparral, etc.) of the CIF Southern Section – raises legitimate concerns about the length of the season and how some schools are compensated for costs due to the bowl games. But ultimately for schools that are not in the Southern Section, it would turn most of the bowl games into a mish-mash of matchups that would likely generate only tepid interest among fans and media.

A quick but incomplete survey of CIF section web sites showed little to no support for the proposal from outside the Southern Section. As large as the Southern Section has grown (easily the largest in the state), it does take at least some support for a proposal from the Southern Section to pass at the state level. The CIF Federated Council meeting for the fall starts on Monday, Oct. 29 in San Francisco.

The CIF’s current format, which is being tried for the first time this season, allows for the addition of regional bowl games in the north and south to determine which two teams play in the state bowl games. The regional participants in the five divisions (Open, Division 1, Division II, Division III and Division IV) also will continue to be chosen by a committee consisting of the 10 CIF section commissioners.

Under the CIFSS proposed plan, the regional games would be eliminated and replaced by a system in which each CIF section is guaranteed three participants in a bowl game series and then a blind draw would be held to determine which teams play each other. San Francisco and Oakland wouldn’t be included, but the winners would resume playing each other in the Bay Bowl. The CIF also would still have the option of hosting three state open division games outside of the blind draw.

The impetus for this proposal is that the addition of the new regional games has forced many schools to start their football seasons much earlier than ever. And in Southern California, this is more of a problem because school districts in that part of the state traditionally open campuses more often after Labor Day than they do in the north.

An example was given in the proposal of what these blind draws might look like: North Coast vs. San Diego, Southern vs. Sac-Joaquin, Central Coast vs. Los Angeles and Northern vs. Central.

It also is specified that each blind draw would be for two-year cycles to give each section the opportunity to play host in the three games against its opposing section.

2011 Blind Draw Possible Matchups

Taking the examples further, let’s look at last year and what those matchups might have been for large schools.

First, let’s assume that the featured Open Division matchup still would have been De La Salle of Concord vs. Westlake of Westlake Village and that Santa Margarita of Rancho Santa Margarita vs. Bellarmine of San Jose still would have been an “open division” state game as well.

Coach Coley Candaele and his team at Vista Murrieta were nearly chosen for a CIF bowl berth after the 2011 season and have a better chance of playing in a bowl game this year.

It’s hard to say what the third “open division” game might have been because in the proposal it doesn’t specify that these games even have to be north vs. south. Going by the overall state rankings at the time, however, that would make it Vista Murrieta of Murrieta vs. Helix of La Mesa (both south schools).

With those six teams out of the mix, the blind draw format then would have produced the following large school games (keep in mind that section champions still would be the only teams bowl eligible): Windsor vs. Poway, Rancho Verde of Moreno Valley vs. Del Oro of Loomis, Serra of San Mateo vs. Narbonne of Harbor City and Paradise vs. Bakersfield.

A Rancho Verde vs. Del Oro matchup from last season would have been interesting, but the other three would have been yawners or mismatches. What would be the point of even having them?

This format also still doesn’t solve the problem of strong teams being left out of the mix completely. Vacaville, Granite Bay and Arroyo Grande are among those “large schools” that still would have missed out.

TV Deal Implications

For many years, the CIF Southern Section has enjoyed having a lucrative TV contract with FOX/Prime Ticket in the L.A. media market. In every year, the biggest TV high school game on FOX/Prime Ticket has been the CIFSS Pac-Five Championship and it’s also tended to be the biggest game between two Southern California teams each year (although if you watched that epic 2009 Oaks Christian vs. Gardena Serra battle you might disagree).

That’s going to change this season. The biggest TV game in Southern California involving two Southern California schools will no longer be the CIFSS Pac-Five Championship and it won’t be on FOX/Prime Ticket. This will change to the CIF Southern California Open Division bowl game – last year it would have been Westlake vs. Santa Margarita and the year before it would have been Servite vs. Corona Centennial – and that game will not be shown on FOX/Prime Ticket, either. Instead, it will be part of the CIF state office’s long-term deal with Time Warner, which has the rights to all regional and state championship games.

Of course, the CIFSS wants its Pac-Five championship to remain the biggest SoCal game of the year. And of course the CIF state office doesn’t want anything like scrapping the regional football games to diminish its Time Warner deal. There’s definitely a lot of conflicts on this issue.

The CIFSS, it should be noted, has not voted for any of the CIF state bowl game proposals, even going back to the first one. It has proven to be a team player, however, in helping organize and support the events at the Home Depot Center in Carson.

What Would We Do Next
For the CIF Bowl Games?

We do agree with one strong sentiment apparent in the CIFSS proposal and that’s the desire to get more schools involved in the bowl game experience.

Instead of blind draws among section champions, we’d like to see the simple addition of another division. Then we’d have regional and state bowl games for Open, Division I, Division II, Division III, Division IV and Division V.

That’s six total divisions and for the biggest state in the country that’s not too many. Florida (with eight), Texas (10) and Illinois (8) would still have more and going to five divisions for the state bowl games also would be perfect for the San Diego Section and the North Coast Section, which both currently have five divisions for football as well. The Central and Sac-Joaquin have six, but the lower two easily could fit into a CIF Division V.

In San Diego, for example, a five-division format would mean that the section’s Division II and Division III champions would no longer be competing for one regional bowl game slot. A smaller school in the Central Section like Mendota last year, for example, also would have a much better chance of getting into a regional bowl game because the team no longer would be in the same bowl game division such as Washington of Easton (last year’s D3 state bowl winner).

For selfish reasons, we also like five divisions because more than 30 years ago our founder, the late Nelson Tennis, put California’s football teams into five divisions for his very first state rankings. It worked in compiling the state rankings for many years and it would work for the bowl games, too.

Questions or comments? Email

Enjoy this article?

Find out how you can get access to more exclusive content, one-of-a-kind California high school sports content!

Learn More


  1. Harold Abend
    Posted October 17, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    The CIFSS is hoping to get the votes of the CIF San Francisco and CIF Oakland Sections by giving them post-season competition they’ve been shut out of…its a degrading move…McClymonds was and has been in the Bowl mix yet now they would be out…

  2. Posted October 19, 2012 at 2:47 am | Permalink

    I agree with you. I don’t like this new “proposal” either. These “proposed” games don’t sound like real state championship games. It definitely appears that SS is advocating their self interests.

    • PaulSOCAL
      Posted December 9, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      Adding a 5th division is only part of the fix. The southern section needs to adjust its CIF divisions as well. All of the top ranked teams are in the pac5 Division, which the winner gets always gets a berth into the Open game. The problem is there are not teams left for Division 1 giving Northern California a huge advantage.
      Also in Norther California you are placed into your CIF brackets by school size this is not the same in Southern California. School are based upon competitiveness. This keeps the better D2 and D3 teams out of bowls as they compete in the D1 divisions.

  3. Jeff
    Posted October 19, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    It’s not at all funny how money always seems to be the driving force.

  4. Patrick
    Posted October 26, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    I have being saying this for the last 5 years. Let’s be like allthe other states have a true state playoff. Do away with section champships. Have league champs and the second place team advance to the state champship willplay the same amount of games. and not north vs south this way the two best teams in the state will play. have six divisons base on school enrollment only. it will work, ask texas and Mississippi, Louisiana and all the other states that have a true state champ. not another (BSC) champ.

  5. Posted November 4, 2012 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    I like the simple idea Mark has proposed. Add a division! More teams get to play. It will also help some schools to be placed in a division that is closer to it’s enrollment. Easy.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


    Latest News

    Insider Blog