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.
Athletic 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.