As we were putting together this week’s State Top 20 rankings packages for boys and girls basketball it was hard not to speculate over which 16 teams — eight in the north and eight in the south — were likely going to be placed in the upcoming CIF Northern California and Southern California Open Division playoffs. Those projections are for a different post, but in looking ahead to the two CIF Open Division state championships we were reminded how hectic it is that the boys and girls Open Division finals have been held every year back-to-back on a Saturday night.
These are the most historically significant games for the season essentially in two different sports — girls and boys basketball — with about a 20-minute break in between. From a personal point of view, we’ve always hated it having to rush around with the girls, often not getting to talk to everyone we want to talk to or not getting every photo we want, and even then there’s just not enough time. The biggest boys game of the year is about to tip off.
Sure, there are lot of media people there who are only interested in one of the two games, depending on teams playing from their coverage area. But there are a lot of media people there who have great interest in both boys and girls. In addition to us, there’s folks at MaxPreps (Mitch Stephens), the L.A. Times (Eric Sondheimer), the Sacramento Bee (Joe Davidson), NorCal Preps (Doug Benton), Prep2Prep (Harold Abend writes for them as well as us) and many others.
In the interest of having the spotlight shining on the Open Division for the girls just as much as the boys, why not split those two games with the girls playing the final game on Friday each weekend with the boys still wrapping up the entire schedule on Saturday night?
Under this proposed change, the Division I boys game would still be held on Friday night (with a possible larger crowd than Open Division girls we admit) and then the Division I girls game would be flipped to a Saturday slot just before the Open Division for boys.
Since the advent of the Open Division in basketball, one of the biggest criticisms we have of the CIF is the way it continues to treat the Open Division for the most part like any one of its other divisions. Executive director Roger Blake continues to push the narrative that all teams should strive to be in the Open Division no matter what, but then when the actual playoffs start the Open Division is not separated from the other divisions nearly enough. These are the best of the best and if we’re doing competitive equity correctly the eighth best team in the Open Division is better than the Division I champion.
If the Open Division girls game was on a Friday, the last impression of everyone attending the state finals on that Friday would be of those two teams, the players in that game and on what happened. Did a team just clinch the mythical national title? Did that girl just clinch Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year? Sure, the Division I girls game would still offer some drama, but we know from Division I brackets in every sport with NorCal and SoCal Open Divisions that the south D1 team is probably going to win and win big. Put that game before the Open Division boys and at least by having Open Division finals on both nights the CIF would at least be doing something to more differentiate the Open Division from other divisions.
We were talking to a few others we know about this idea and they couldn’t think of a reason why such a switch wouldn’t work. Since all of the games are on TV anyway, it doesn’t seem like TV would mind. Besides, just like many of us in the media, they’d probably like to shine a bit more light on the Open Division girls championship as well. That’s just a lot harder to do when that game is immediately before the boys.