Just before the CIF North Coast Section girls basketball playoffs are supposed to start, the defending CIF Open Division state champions from last year are out.
The Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland team, which defeated Windward of Los Angeles in last year’s first Open Division final, have been eliminated from the NCS Division III bracket (one the Dragons have won five straight years) due to violating a section rule about playing too many regular season games.
The error was confirmed on Sunday by numerous Bay Area news reports. It surrounded a game in which O’Dowd officials thought was a scrimmage against Oakland Tech that actually was classified as a regular season game. That put the Dragons’ total at 27, which is one above the mandated section limit.
According to Mitch Stephens of the San Francisco Chronicle and MaxPreps, NCS commissioner Gil Lemmon and O’Dowd athletic director Mike Bowler are scheduled to meet Monday to discuss the situation and whether the Dragons could still petition to be placed into the CIF Northern California Open Division regional playoffs.
In looking over all of the criteria that the CIF has been distributing to its member schools for the last two years, there’s one that clearly would qualify the Dragons for the NorCal Open Division even though they will not have won a single NCS D3 playoff game. This is the criteria that relates to our own Cal-Hi Sports state rankings as well as the Cal Preps/MaxPreps state rankings for the current season and last season.
In that criteria, all a team has to do in order to be considered for the Open Division is to be in the top 10 of our state overall rankings for this year and last. O’Dowd was No. 1 last year and was No. 6 last week. Nothing that is going to happen on the court in any of the NorCal section playoffs is going to drastically change that ranking, either. O’Dowd already has done enough this season to be top 10 overall in our rankings even without playing a single playoff game.
The punishment for the O’Dowd girls in this mistake is going to be at the section level and should stay at the section level.
It’s going to be a challenge for head coach Malik McCord to get his girls ready for the Open Division (possibly even a No. 8 seed and a trip to go back to play at St. Mary’s of Stockton) without the benefit of being able to play in any section playoff games.
Still, the players and coaches at this elite program deserve to be put into the NorCal Open Division, they actually will meet one of the criteria and it’s hard to envision eight other teams in Northern California that will even have close to the resume that the Dragons will have.
For the first CIF Open Division state champion to not be allowed the chance to defend its title due to a mistake like playing 27 games instead of 26 would be hard to fathom.