By Bill Tamburrino
Ramona High School’s varsity football team received a berth in the Division III San Diego Section CIF Playoffs.
Ironically, the playoffs will be the first time that the Bulldogs will face another Division III team this season. Two Division III teams were on their schedule in the past (El Capitan and Serra), but both opted out of the games this season.
The Bulldogs played a horrendous schedule and were in a league that in this reporter’s opinion they should not have been in. Every opponent on the Dawg’s football schedule except Otay Ranch made it to the playoffs and they were ranked in the top 10 in Division I much of the season. They, too, played a tough schedule.
The Bulldogs, who are in Division III in football this season, played four Division I teams: Poway, Grossmont, Carlsbad and Otay Ranch. Three of the four received berths in the Division I playoffs.
The Bulldogs played five teams in Division II, and every one of them made it to the playoffs: Oceanside, Westview, Torrey Pines, Rancho Bernardo and Morse.
The Bulldogs did play one Division IV school, 9-1 and third seeded Valley Center.
The same can be said for all of Ramona’s fall sports teams. They all played demanding schedules. The boys’ cross country went 1-4 in the Palomar League but won the Palomar League Conference Championship as a team, and Dylan Blankenbaker was the league champion.
Lady’s golf won two Palomar League matches against Mt. Carmel, which for some reason is not in the Palomar League in football. Water polo, ladies’ volleyball and ladies’ tennis did not win a league contest but all deservedly got berths to the CIF playoffs based on strength of schedule.
In this reporter’s opinion every team that received a berth deserved that berth under the current system’s flawed criteria. The coaches and athletes accepted tough challenges, endured injuries, worked hard and never complained or pointed fingers. They were the victims of circumstances beyond their control.
It is ironic that our athletes and coaches have the fortitude and courage to play strong schedules yet those scheduling the leagues don’t have the courage to do what this reporter considers the right thing and make the schedules fair instead of strong. Their chance is coming this month.
Being placed in the Palomar League was supposed to be a two-year deal. That may not be the case. To get out of the Palomar League and into another league, another school must want to leave their league. It will be voted upon by the principals of the leagues later this month.
The Palomar League does not want us to leave. The whole re-leaguing was done for one purpose, to make money at the gate in football, and Ramona travels well and supports its team. So the members of the Palomar League do not want us out for more reasons than just our football gate.
The Valley League, for example, does not want us in their league and their reason is not for gate money. It is the opposite reason that the Palomar League wants us in their league.
Rumors circulating in the North County are that the only change in the Palomar League will be that Torrey Pines will leave and Del Norte will take their place. That will do Ramona little or no good in many sports.
The proposed “new” Palomar League is the example of the flawed system. Unless there are changes in enrollment or if the league would have been that way this year the Palomar League would have had teams from Divisions I-II-III and IV. That is ridiculous.
The sad thing is that the the North County conference is selling the athletes down the drain to sell tickets at the football gate.
Too often administrators say, “It is about the kids.” Most of the time I want to puke when I hear that. It is about the money.
One North County official on the condition of anonymity said, “The administrators will say in public that it is about proximity and cutting travel expenses and competitive equity, but it always gets down to politics and football gate at the meetings.”
If proximity is such a big deal, then why do the administrators allow teams to travel long distances to play cupcakes in the pre-league games and tournaments? North County teams travel to the border to find teams to beat in most sports. If money is so important, then why do basketball, baseball, soccer, softball, etc. teams play in tournaments instead of playing more home games in the pre-season?
Basketball and wrestling are the only sports that generate income. Admission should be charged at all evening events. More home games and matches and less travel makes more sense that playing half of a schedule on the road.
The system is flawed.
In talking to several coaches in the North County and in the San Diego Section, the general consensus is not that the system is not less than perfect, has a few bugs, or even can be fixed. The general consensus is the system is flawed.
The system is flawed in the San Diego CIF playoff system in all sports. The San Diego Section of the CIF has five divisions. Team champions are determined in all five divisions in most cases.
In some individual sports, individual champions are determined in divisions and in some sports they are not (wrestling yes, tennis no and so on and so forth).
The divisions are different in sports where state playoffs are contested. So a school can be in division three (football) in one team sport and in division two (water polo and volleyball) other sports that is played in the same season.
There are several solutions. But they would ruffle too many feathers and take power away from megalomaniacs.
Do away with the conferences. All leagues should consist of only teams for the same division. In divisions I, II and III there are 18 teams in football in each division. The math is perfect. Divide each division into three six-team leagues. The top three teams in two leagues and the top two teams from one league go to the playoffs.
Only eight teams should go to the playoffs. The only reason 12 teams go to the playoffs is gate money. It has been done before in this section.
If we remain unfair to the majority of our student-athletes and remain in the North County Conference, then the leagues should be re-leagued by enrollment or strength in sports. That won’t happen because there is only one principal in the North County that cares about Ramona’s student-athletes and he only has one vote.
It is better to try and fail than to fail to try. We have tried, and with a few exceptions, failed in the Palomar League. Our athletes have fought valiantly. Our coaches have worked hard. Our parents have supported our teams.
It is time to give our athletes a fighting chance in every sport every time they enter a competition.