CIF Bowl Games: What’s Next?

Former Granite Bay head coach Ernie Cooper raises the CIF Division I state bowl game trophy last December after his team defeated Long Beach Poly. Photo by Scott Kurtz.

Former Granite Bay head coach Ernie Cooper raises the CIF Division I state bowl game trophy last December after his team defeated Long Beach Poly. Photo by Scott Kurtz.

There is discussion about a proposal to allow every section football champion to have the opportunity to play in a regional bowl game. But that would likely require 11 or 12 divisions. We run a simulated selection from last year. See what you think.

Note: We have an additional item about what’s next for the CIF bowl games to go along with this one about the future of the series. The other post includes our stance on whether the Central Section should move to the north, whether we like or don’t like the idea of giving every section champ a bowl game and more. It is for Gold Club members. To sign up and find out more about becoming a Gold Club member, CLICK HERE.

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When the selections for the 2012 CIF football bowl games were announced last December, the fiercest opposition and strongest criticism came from the Kern County community of Wasco.

Folks in that town were so angered by their unbeaten team not being chosen for the Division III South bowl game that it prompted state assemblyman Rudy Salas to call on the CIF to further explain the reasons for the choice and the process behind it.

“The recent decision by the (CIF) committee to deny the Wasco Tigers, and our community, the opportunity to continue their outstanding season in the regional bowl game leaves many people wondering if the selection process is fair for all schools,” Assemblyman Salas wrote. “We try to teach our children that if you work hard and do the right thing, then everything will work out. What the (CIF) has done by selecting teams with lesser records to play in the regional bowl games goes against that. At a minimum the (CIF) selection committee owes the students, their families and our community an open explanation of how such decisions are made.”

The CIF responded to that request, no doubt explaining criteria such as strength of schedule, which has been clearly communicated to everyone. And to its credit, Wasco went out this season and scheduled a game against Bakersfield.

Still, the outcry has caused some within the CIF or within the ranks of the CIF section commissioners to float the concept of a football bowl system in which every section champion could be guaranteed a regional bowl game.

This possibility and more topics related to the future of the CIF bowl games will no doubt be discussed when the first CIF Federated Council meeting of the school year is held on Monday at the DoubleTree near San Francisco International Airport.
2013 CIF FB Logo 225
In a nutshell: Every team gets in

The idea basically is to keep the Open Division as it is, as well as Division I and there also would be perhaps an Open Division for small schools (possibly less than 1,200 enrollment). Division II also might closely resemble the current Division II alignment, but after that would come a series of other divisions in which a four-team bracket with one regional bowl game leading into a state final would be conducted.

Based on last year’s teams that qualified for CIF bowl game consideration by winning a section title, here is rough outline of the games in this system that we think may have been played:

Open Division (North): De La Salle (Concord) vs. Folsom
Open Division (South): Narbonne (Harbor City) vs. Centennial (Corona)

Division I (North): Granite Bay vs. St. Ignatius (San Francisco)
Division I (South): Long Beach Poly vs. Clovis North

Division II (North): Oakdale vs. Clayton Valley (Concord)
Division II (South): Serra (Gardena) vs. Edison (Huntington Beach)

Open Division Small Schools (North): Marin Catholic (Kentfield) vs. Central Catholic (Modesto)
Open Division Small Schools (South): Wasco vs. Nordhoff (Ojai)
Note: Remember, this would be enrollment-based most likely so CIF D3 state champ Madison would have been too big.

Division III (South): Oceanside vs. Palos Verdes (PV Estates)
Division III (North): Citrus Hill (Perris) vs. Eastlake (Chula Vista).
Note: There are more section champions from the south than the north in current alignment so there has to be one or perhaps two divisions in this format that would have CIF Southern Section, San Diego or Central Section teams only. These four would have made an intriguing bracket last year.

Division IV (North): St. Francis (Mountain View) vs. Enterprise (Redding)
Division IV (South): Garces (Bakersfield) vs. Madison (San Diego)

Division V (North): Valley Christian (San Jose) vs. San Benito (Hollister)
Division V (South): Kaiser (Fontana) vs. Downey

Division VI (North): Ridgeview (Bakersfield) vs. San Fernando
Division VI (South): Monrovia vs. Corona del Mar (Newport Beach)
Note: This would have been another bracket in which South schools only were chosen.

Division VII (North): Sacred Heart Prep (Atherton) vs. Sutter
Division VII (South): Lincoln (San Diego) vs. Rim of the World (Lake Arrowhead)

Division VIII (North): Ferndale vs. Justin-Siena (Napa)
Division VIII (South): Rio Hondo Prep (Arcadia) vs. Santa Fe Christian (Solana Beach)

Division IX (North): Le Grand vs. Liberty (Madera Ranchos)
Division IX (South): View Park (Los Angeles) vs. Mendota
Note: To even out the north/south split in this run through there had to be one game in which a team from the north played a team from the south. The best fit was Le Grand vs. Liberty for this bracket based on close proximity of the two schools.

Division X (North): Portola vs. Willows
Division X (South): Brookside Christian (Stockton) BYE
Note: There were 48 section champions on the board last year and we counted View Park of Los Angeles so one team had to get a bye in this simulated selection. We went with one in the smallest division. This year, there will be the San Diego Open Division so there will be 50 teams on the board. No byes would then be needed, especially if there was an Oakland vs. SF game.

Bay Bowl Division: McClymonds (Oakland) vs. Lincoln (San Francisco).
Note: This would work only if neither of the two champions is in the Open Division or if McClymonds wasn’t in the Open Division for small schools. Last year, the Warriors wouldn’t have been picked ahead of Central Catholic. With an Oakland vs. SF game back in play, we’d then have 48 teams in 12 divisions (two would be designated open).

As for sites, home locations would probably be needed for many with more state bowl games going to somewhere like Fresno or the Bay Area or UC Davis.

Could this have worked last year and could it work in the future? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @CalHiSports

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  1. Squatman
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    The goal should be to have as many teams compete for the title of “state champion.” Under the current system, even if you win your section, you may not be “picked” to represent the North or South, therefore it is not a true indicator or in alignment with state playoffs. Other states have figured this out, yet Cali is still behind (again). Play one less regular season game, and get on with it! Unfortunately, there are politics involved, so good luck with getting consensus! Look at Texas and other “large” states….they seem to get things done.

    • Pez
      Posted October 25, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

      I don’t want to be like Texas or Florida or any other state. The playoff system in those states suck!

      If you don’t like the current system then drop bowl games altogether. I’d be OK with it.

      I don’t want the regular season cut to less than 10 games and I like the current sectional playoffs. But we should resist extending the season for a number of reasons including the fact that it “craps” on the other winter sports which will and likely has hurt football participation.

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted October 26, 2013 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      California is the only state association in the nation divided up into 10 separate sections that operate with their own commissioners, boards of managers, and even have different playoff formats. That’s why other states “get things done” in the manner you describe and we don’t. I don’t agree that schools should play one less game to accommodate a state playoff. In the big picture, it is more about every kid at every school having the chance to participate. Chopping off games and a school not having one less home game every two years goes completely against that. Thanks for participating.

    • patrick Evans
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

      California playoff system is a joke. I have played high school football in the state of Louisiana Class of 1982 State Runner-up Class 4A (Covington H.S.) at that time it was the highest class. I have been following Southern California schools for the last 18 years I love going to the games. It can be done. This how CA. has 1071 schools, TX has 1178, OH has 748 and FL. Has 567 it can work. Simply get rid of sections, classify each division by school enrollment. It would not be based on the history of the program Have 7 or 8 divisions. Each league has 8 – 9 teams. You get 2or 3 non-league game. Only 1st and 2nd place teams go to the state playoffs. All 1st place teams are home runner-up are on the road. This way the best teams will have a fair chance of winning a true state championship. 6 playoff games.

      • Mark Tennis
        Posted October 31, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

        Yes, it does sound easy when you put it that way. Just “get rid of sections.” How exactly would that be done? The Southern Section is 100 years old. Unless the CIF goes bankrupt and the state legislature takes it over, I don’t know of a way to “get rid of sections.” Suppose an initiative to do it by the public might work, but I think there are way, way more important issues for the initiative process to be used for than starting legitimate high school football state playoffs.

  2. paul_johnson884
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    I just lost my lunch.

  3. Blackbeard
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    Cal preps has the best playoff idea. That’s just my opinion…

  4. Jay
    Posted October 26, 2013 at 5:42 am | Permalink

    I can see this as something to seriously look at. If you think Wasco had a gripe Corona del Mar had a bigger one in not getting chosen for the STATE game… This year CDM has taken that into their own hands beating the Div I and II teams on their non league schedule. Undefeated and 18 straight wins should get the job done this year!

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted October 26, 2013 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      The point wasn’t that we had a gripe about Wasco but that a state assemblyman did and the whole town did to the point that I think it really bothered many in the CIF.

  5. jim
    Posted October 27, 2013 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    sounds like a good plan to me

  6. Daniel
    Posted October 29, 2013 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Texas also has three different governing boards for their high school sports. The UIL(public schools), TAPPS(private school) & TCAL(private). The UIL is what you see when you’re talking about Texas high school football. I don’t know how or separating public & private schools would work in California because there are so many private schools. They also seem to dominate the CIF. Especially in the Southern Section.

  7. pantera-cat
    Posted November 27, 2013 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Great job Mark! Please push something like this thru. No school (sectional playoff qualifier) other than State Champs should end their season win.

  8. Dennis Barnes
    Posted January 16, 2014 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    Instead of each section conducting their own playoffs at the conclusion of the regular season have a committee select and seed the top 16 teams in the North and top 16 teams in the South and have that be the Open Division State Playoffs. Select the top 32 in each region for each of Divisions I thru III and the top 16 again for Division IV and there are your state playoffs for the rest of the divisions. This will result in the best 32 or 64 teams in the state in each division playing it out on the field without having to add any more games to the season: A 10 game regular season plus a max of 5 or 6 games in the playoffs. Best of all: 5 true state champions!

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted January 16, 2014 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

      In theory, a great plan. But the sections will never, ever give up conducting their own playoffs. It’s how most of them are funded.

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