Timeout with Tambo: CIF's playoff format

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By BILL TAMBURRINO

Last week I endeavored to explain the new San Diego Section CIF divisional playoff format. It is based on strength in sport and a weighed ranking system. The purpose of the new formula is to ensure that the playoffs are fair for the sake of competition.

The idea is a good idea; maybe a great idea. The system is fair and has been done on the college and professional levels for a long time. In collegiate sports, Division I teams or FBS football teams are not ranked on enrollment. They are ranked by the amount of money (scholarships) they spend on sports. Prestigious private universities (Stanford, Notre Dame, USC) have small student enrollments but they offer the maximum amount of scholarships. Cal Poly, UC Davis and most state schools have a much higher student enrollment but choose not to offer as many scholarships. Division III, Ivy League schools and NAIA schools don’t offer any athletic scholarships but have larger enrollments than some private schools.

The same is true in high schools. Private schools have fewer students than most public schools but they can draw from a bigger area. They don’t have as many at risk students or students with special needs. In some cases they don’t have any. The student enrollment at a private school is a moot point. The same goes for charter schools and schools in a district with an academy or open enrollment.

The CIF has tried to level the field and make competition equitable. I applaud that effort. The new system has flaws, but what doesn’t?

My main concern (gripe) is that the CIF started at the wrong end of the problem. My father and grandfather were construction workers and they told me that when you build something it should be done from the ground up. The CIF started at the roof and I don’t see any attempt to work down to the foundation in the near future.

Making the playoffs fair is not as important as making the regular season fair. League play should be more important than the playoffs. A team should have a fair chance every time it steps on the field. That was my gripe about Ramona being in the Palomar League in every sport. Many of our teams did not have a fair chance at equitable competition. Some could compete and some didn’t have a chance.

I did the math and math is not my strong suit. Every division could be broken down to three or four leagues. In the divisions with three leagues the top two teams from each league would automatically go to the playoffs. The CIF could pick two at large teams to make an eight team playoff bracket. Or, three teams from two leagues and two teams from one league could go on a rotating basis. It has been done in San Diego before. In the divisions with four leagues the math is very simple.

There is no need for a 12 team bracket or byes. 0-10 teams and 1-9 teams or teams with losing records in league should not go to the playoffs, period. In the present system arguments could be made about strength of schedule, which got down to bragging about to whom you lost. Ramona’s football team advanced to the playoffs with a 1-9 record because the league was not fair and they played a brutal schedule. If they were in an equitable league that would not have had to happen. Ramona came in second place in the Palomar League last season and earned the right to advance to the playoffs.

Right now leagues are based on geographic, demographic and economic factors: Grossmont, North County, City, South Bay, etc. There is no reason that the leagues couldn’t be based on the new CIF system. What is wrong with having a fair chance to compete every time you step on the field, diamond, pitch, pool or in a gym?

R

amona is in the North County Conference. Because Orange Glen wanted to give its athletes a fair chance at competing in non-league football games, the North County Conference now dictates who plays who in non- league and cross-league games. That was done to make money at the gates on football. Ramona is forced to play Oceanside in football. The two teams are not geographically, demographically or competitively equal. The series record now stands at 25-1-1 in favor of the Pirates. It is a long trip and a long ride home, win or lose. Ramona has beaten Oceanside once at Oceanside so it is usually a very long ride home. That is not competitively fair, based on the new CIF system.

It is time that the CIF makes the entire season as fair as it has made the playoff (moneymaking) system. That would mean breaking up some conferences but it would not necessarily mean more travel for Ramona. Trips to Oceanside, Carlsbad, Torrey Pines, Mission Vista, etc. are a lot longer than a trip to the Grossmont League and some City schools. As a matter of fact, Ramona coaches have often chosen to travel a long way to give their teams a chance to compete or to win. Ramona teams have traveled to Chula Vista, El Centro, Las Vegas, Florida, Hawaii, Army/Navy, Dana Hills, Apple Valley, Brawley, Calexico, Yucca Valley and several remote locations to play in tournaments and non-league contests. Since the school or district is no longer involved in athletic transportation and won’t be until there is a lawsuit, that is a moot point.

Vince Lombardi once said, “Winning is not a sometimes thing; it is an all time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in awhile, you do them right all of the time.” The same can and should be said about being fair for the sake of competition.

   
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