Christian of El Cajon in fight to be D4

School is planning legal action early this week to reclassify back to D4 from D2 for the CIF bowl games.

In last week’s CIF Division IV state bowl game rankings, Christian of El Cajon was removed from the No. 1 position because Cal-Hi Sports was informed by the CIF state office – associate director Ron Nocetti to be exact – that the school would not be eligible for that division if it were to win the CIF San Diego Section Division III championship.

There have been a few teams each season in the bowl game rankings that get switched around in divisions because of updated CBED enrollment figures, but we were sure that Christian of El Cajon had an enrollment of below 500 – which is the magical total that determines whether a school can be Division IV or not – so a clarification was needed. The response by the CIF was that enrollment did not matter for the school that wins the San Diego Division III title because that team would then be eligible for the Division II South bowl game.

In looking over all of the material related to the CIF football bowl games, however, it is not clearly written anywhere that a school below 500 that wins a section title could be placed in Division II. In fact, it actually states the opposite in one sentence of the CIF football handbook.

2013 CIF FB Logo 225Athletic director David Beezer and many others at Christian of El Cajon had all read that same material and were shocked to learn that the Patriots’ football team would no longer be considered the front-runner for a Division IV regional bowl game and instead would be placed into a much stronger group of teams in Division II.

Since then, Beezer has met with four attorneys, has met with his local state assemblyman, has talked to Nocetti on the phone, has talked to CIF San Diego Section commissioner Jerry Schniepp and he has contacted Cal-Hi Sports.

“We are going to fight this as far as we can take it,” Beezer said on two different conversations with Cal-Hi Sports in the last two days. “We have to get this resolved early this week. We can’t wait.”

The biggest issue with El Cajon Christian – and frankly with us – is the poorly written, unclear, confusing manner in which the CIF consistently communicates its criteria in such important documents as bowl game divisions and open divisions for basketball. Remember how many basketball coaches last March had no idea and couldn’t figure out whether they’d be in the Open Division or not? This is the same thing. All that has to be done is for someone at the CIF to provide examples, provide further explanation of criteria. It’s not that difficult of a fix.

In the Christian football case, both the “2013 CIF State Football Divisions” document and information in a handbook sent to schools has the following statements:

Division IV * Schools with enrollment 1‐500
If a Division III Section Champion is within the DIV enrollment parameters of 1‐ 500, they will be moved to that division for Bowl Game consideration.

Where is it mentioned that a school below 500 would be placed in Division II if it won its section title? Nowhere. In fact, the statement about a Division III Section Champion is exactly what El Cajon Christian might be on Saturday night. The Patriots would be “a Division III Section Champion” and they are “within the DIV enrollment parameters.”

After covering the CIF for 30 years, we know that the intention of El Cajon Christian’s placement in Division II is not to play favorites, discriminate against a Christian school or anything close to that. The people who drew up these divisional placements and policies just made some mistakes to provide any clarifications in its criteria and in this case those mistakes are big enough to prompt one school to take up legal measures to fix it.

Christian still has a football game to play on Saturday against 9-4 San Marcos to even get bowl eligible and everyone connected to this case at the school is not assuming anything. “We know we’re going to have a war on our hands,” Beezer said.

And there’s no guarantee that if El Cajon Christian were to gain D4 South status and were to win on Saturday, that the section commissioners would vote for the team during next Sunday’s selection meeting. But if El Cajon Christian were on the board for D4 South with any of the possible remaining schools, the only reason that the team wouldn’t be picked would be completely, unabashedly political. All of the facts would clearly point to El Cajon Christian as the best team on the board. The Patriots won their game on Friday 28-14 over Hilltop of Chula Vista to improve to 11-1 with their only loss being 24-21 to Mission Bay of San Diego, which is playing St. Augustine in the San Diego Section Division II final and just beat 2012 CIF Division III state bowl winner Madison.

Our hope in this situation is that the CIF just admits that it made a mistake in its bowl game divisions explanations, lets El Cajon Christian go to D4 South if it wins on Saturday (there are no other schools in the state in the same situation) and then next year simply correct its explanations and criteria not just in the bowl game divisions but in all other communications. It’s just adding another paragraph in many instances.

Besides, do we really want to sit through another 66-7 Division IV bowl game like last year? If El Cajon Christian isn’t in the mix and Central Catholic of Modesto doesn’t lose to Hilmar on Saturday in the Sac-Joaquin Section, then there’s a very good chance that’s what is going to happen once again.

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  1. Marty
    Posted December 2, 2013 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    I can only express utter disappointment at what has been done here. This school (of 380 kids mind you) has fought long and hard this season moving from traditionally a D5 school to D3, playing schools with 6-7 times the enrollment. These Boys have competed and won. For CIF to take away what would be the greatest feat in school history for Christian High is despicable. By the clear letter of the rules, they should be competing in the D4 State Bowl. Anything else is unacceptable.

    • RedBird
      Posted December 2, 2013 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      This is absolutely ridiculous and CIF state office better clear this up. Moving Christian up to DII?!?!?! If any team should be moved up it should be moved up its Central Catholic of Modesto (to DIII). I cannot believe an associate director of CIF would say this. There’s gotta be a better system put in place. This is starting to look like the BCS. Christian isn’t even my team (my Cardinals lost last weekend). The best match-up for DIV is Central Catholic vs Christian (if they both win their divisions). That’s the game I would pay to see.

  2. Cal 14
    Posted December 2, 2013 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    I don’t get the confusion in this situation. The rules are actually quite clear. The only teams that are eligible to be moved to D-IV are *state* D-III teams. Christian is a *state* D-II team by virtue of competing in the SDS D-III playoffs. If this school wants to blame anyone, it’s the San Diego Section.

    The CIF probably never expected to see such a small school competing in a non-D-III bracket, but to me, they’re clearly D-II for the bowl games.

    • RedBird
      Posted December 3, 2013 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      Cal 14, I have to eat crow & agree w/you. I took a look at the rules and they’re pretty clear. I’m not sure why San Diego Section put under 500 enrollment schools (Christian, Parker & Santa Fe Christian) in Division 3. That Division is clearly in the South Bowl II Division. I remember this discussion on another board a few months back. The discussion was about St. Joseph of Santa Maria. They have an enrollment of 474 but they’re in the Southern Section Northern Division which is Bowl Division II. Even though their enrollment is under 500 if they had won their division they would only be Bowl Division II eligible.

      It’s just a shame because the Division IV Bowl game will not be very competitive (assuming Central Catholic wins out). I think it might be worse than the blowout last year (66-7).

  3. Greg
    Posted December 2, 2013 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    Another example of the CiIF making totally irrational decisions. Don’t know how the San Diego section commissioner responded to the state CIF but one would think at least the San Diego section would go to bat for the only team in the section that has a shot at the football state championship. The schools Christian has played this year and beaten in some cases have more boys in their football program then Christian has in its school. The absurdity of of a school this size being forced to compete in division II shows a total lack of common sense by the CIF. If Christian does win against San Marcos and that will be a battle, and then is not chosen for the state playoffs in division IV politics are being played at the highest level of the CIF and the students at Christian are the ones that pay the price. Legally Christian should take this as far as it can on behalf of a great group of players and coaches who have played by the rules and won.

    • Cal 14
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 2:06 am | Permalink

      Greg, this mess was created by the SDS, not the CIF. It’s the SDS’s fault they put what should be a D-IV school in a state D-II division. It doesn’t have anything to do with politics, only incompetence by the SDS.

  4. George
    Posted December 3, 2013 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    I just got off the CIF Website and looked at the criteria. Click on Football Bowl Divisions and schools from 1-500 are ALL in Division 4. There are no section divisions listed under D4. In addition, it says, “If a DIII Section Champion (which is the title that Christian would be called) is within the enrollment parameters of 1-500, they will be moved to that Division for Bowl Game consideration.” It appears that D4 is the only place a school can be placed if within 1-500 students.

    • Cal 14
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 2:04 am | Permalink

      No George, Christian is D-II for state. Don’t confuse CIF divisions with section divisions. SDS D-III is D-II for state, therefore Christian is D-II. The rule is very clear.

  5. Don
    Posted December 3, 2013 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    The San Diego Section is a joke…… What were they thinking placing schools with 380 students in divisions with schools of 2100 students. This should be a separate lawsuit if those kids end up getting hurt playing against all of those big schools week after week…. My gut tells me that the State CIF isn’t happy with the SD Section and how they placed the teams and now is refusing to bail the SD Commissioner out for his “experiment” with the small schools. Good for Christian High School standing up for themselves; the State CIF should be ashamed of themselves for not allowing a school with only 380 kids to play where they belong.

    • SoCal Coach
      Posted December 3, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

      I agree that the state obviously isn’t making any effort to bail out the SD Commissioner! Is the state trying so hard to make an example of SD not to go rogue and reclassify local divisions that they would possibly eliminate the highest ranked Southern small school just to make their point? I think that both the San Diego section and the State office need to remember that they are SUPPOSED to be looking out for the best interests of HS athletes… Instead of pointing fingers and placing blame on each other.

      • Don
        Posted December 3, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

        So Cal Coach, you are exactly right. It would also be easier to defend a move of Christian to D4 than to defend keeping them in D2 with all of the information that is available. No other teams have been chosen at this point and if they select another team instead of Christian, I can see this getting much worse with another lawsuit…

    • Tom
      Posted December 3, 2013 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

      What the State CIF really needs to do is to remove the requirement, at least for the small schools with enrollments below 500, that a team must be a Section champion in order to be elligible for a state bowl game. Not all Sections are created equal – for example Bishop Diego is a small school with a very good team, but they must beat much bigger schools to win their CIF section. Just because they loose to Nordoff in the section playoffs doesn’t mean they aren’t the best small school in Southern California. On the flip side, there are small schools that have a much easier CIF section that have no business in a state bowl game. Any school with an enrollment under 500 should be eligible for consideration based on their record and strength of schedule.

      The other option is to make all the CIF sections align with the State CIF based on enrollment.

  6. RedBird
    Posted December 3, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    CIF could go a couple of routes. The Sac-Joaquin & Central Coast Sections place their teams in divisions based on school size & strength of the team. So one league will have teams playing in different divisions. i.e. West Catholic League this year has teams playing in the Open, DII & DII championship games. Or go the tournament route similar to basketball playoffs. Either way this system we have now looks like the BCS. Teams inevitably get left out every year. Wasco last year and it looks like Christian this year.

  7. decarlos319
    Posted December 5, 2013 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    McClymonds High School was in a similar position in 2010. The team was 12-0 and the school enrollment is below 300 students. But, they were not allowed to reclassify. The state said that the classification should be made before the season. Therefore, if they let Christian in it will be a lot of backlash.

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