Well, yes and no. At some point, for any CIF state championship event to be successful, the state's biggest section by far needs to be involved. But it would be possible to at least get something going even if the Southern Section isn't supportive.
That vote is still many months down the road, but a possible sign of how things may go in the Southern Section was revealed last week after the section's football advisory committee discussed the plan and "roundly put down" the concept, said Rob Wigod, an assistant Southern Section commissioner, in an L.A. Times story. The Southern Section also voted against a CIF statewide proposal for a series of bowl games in 1997.
Southern Section media relations director Thom Simmons cautioned this week after an earlier version of this editorial was read in his office that the football advisory committee is in no way representative of what the eventual outcome of the vote on the proposal would be.
Simmons said the section office strongly objects to any characterization that it is opposed to the current proposal. He said the advisory committee is comprised of 10 coaches who don't have a final vote on the plan. "We haven't even had a first reading yet," he said. "That's a big jump to go from some comments of the advisory committee to say we're against it."
Two weeks ago, the proposal was given to the CIF New Events Committee, which cleared it for a first reading at the CIF Federated Council meeting in February, but only after recommending certain additions and changes.
Pete Saco, the commissioner of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section, first proposed a doubleheader for December in 2004 with a large school and small school game. The New Events Committee, however, wants to see the proposal with three divisions -- large, medium and small -- and asked that Saco clarify how teams would be chosen for each game.
According to John Williams, the assistant commissioner of the Sac-Joaquin Section, Saco plans to take his proposal back to his own Board of Managers in October before proceeding further.
"Pete doesn't have a problem with the changes, but our board allowed him to go forward with this in the first place," Williams said. "Pete just wants to run it by them first."
Results of the Southern Section football advisory committee vote were faxed to section offices throughout the state, as well as to the CIF state office in Oakland. Some committee members told the L.A. Times that they are against the plan because of concerns about students missing too much of their academic schedule and because of a belief that state championship games wouldn't make enough money. It should be pointed out that one prominent Executive Committee member who was attending the same meeting talked in support of the state title games, which is another reason Simmons said people shouldn't read too much into the advisory committee vote.
It's unknown if that committee was responding to the two-game concept or the tripleheader. It appears that it was the unamended plan.
It's easy to see, however, that the addition of a third game makes the football championship event more sellable to the Central Section and to the San Diego Section. With two divisions split at 1,200 students by enrollment, the Southern Section, theoretically, would almost be guaranteed both berths in each game. But with three divisions, teams such as Marian Catholic and Coronado in San Diego and Garces and Dos Palos in the Central Section would have real good shots of being picked for the small school game.
The Southern Section accounts for 32 votes on the CIF Federated Council, which doesn't give it veto power over all statewide proposals but requires almost all of the rest of the sections in the state to vote yes for something to pass. Saco has said many times he doesn't even know how his own Board of Managers in the Sac-Joaquin Section would vote.
The bottom line is that Southern Section opposition can be overcome, but it's extremely difficult. No one knows, either, if the Southern Section would oppose sending its own teams into the state title games but would let the concept be attempted by the rest of the state.
"The proposal says that teams can choose to be in it or not," Williams said. "That's the way it is right now in all CIF state championship events, it's just that everyone routinely goes. As for an entire section choosing not to participate, I don't know how that would play out."
One of the main differences in the football championship and other CIF state championships is that the section playoffs themselves are part of the championship process. In football, most teams that win section championships will not be going on to the next step. Only three of 24 section champions in the North part of the state, in fact, would be involved.
If the Southern Section were to eventually oppose the plan, it would be reminiscent of how the CIF state championships developed in basketball. The Southern Section didn't participate in the first year of the CIF playoffs in 1980 and then dropped out for one year in 1983.
It was the same tired, old argument that's been heard for decades about how a CIFSS title was enough because there are so many schools in the CIFSS and because the competition is so great. Yes, the competition is great but the rest of the state is still bigger than the CIFSS. And as Crenshaw of Los Angeles has proved in boys basketball and De La Salle of Concord in football in recent years, the notion of CIFSS teams somehow always being "superior," which was supported for years by the ridiculously inaccurate USA Today national ratings, has been blown out of the water. Heck, just this year, mighty Long Beach Poly in football was beaten at home by little ‘ol Clovis East.
The fact of the matter is that a CIF state championship football tripleheader could and should at least be attempted even without the Southern Section. You wouldn't obviously still have it at Edison International Field in Anaheim, but venues like Bulldog Stadium in Fresno, Memorial Stadium in Bakersfield and University of Pacific Stadium in Stockton could at least be explored. No, you wouldn't get teams like Los Alamitos and Mission Viejo, but if the rest of the state was involved you'd still get intriguing and interesting matchups. And just like it happened in basketball, once teams get crowned CIF state champion it might just be only a matter of time before the event gains support from every section in the state.
Remember that one year in basketball when the Southern Section dropped out? Mater Dei of Santa Ana, Hoover of Glendale and Santa Clara of Oxnard were all undefeated and won Southern Section titles. But that same year, Crenshaw also was unbeaten (with a CIF state title) and so was Washington of Easton (also with a CIF state title). The big boys were back the very next year.