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Sunset's move not popular in Southwest

OCVARSITY.COM

The CIF-Southern Section office has proposed that the Sunset League move from the Pac-5 Division to the Southwest Division for the football playoffs.

The Southwest Division's leagues, the Century, Empire, Freeway and Sea View leagues, are not happy about that. And there is little, almost nothing, really, they can do about it.

Tuesday was the first of two days that leagues were able to appeal the proposed playoff groupings, put together by the CIF-SS office, that will take effect in all CIF-SS sports for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years.

There are restrictions on the appeals process, though. The most important one is that leagues cannot base their appeal on the placement of another league in their division.

The Century, Empire, Freeway and Sea View leagues understand they can't appeal the proposed placement of the Sunset League into the Southwest Division for football, they are going through the appeals process anyway just to have their objections heard by the CIF-SS office.

Valencia principal Jim Bell, president of the Empire League, told CIF-SS officials that the Sunset League is not a good competitive fit with the Southwest Division's present leagues. Representing the Empire League on Tuesday, Bell said that of the past seven games in which Empire League teams have played Pac-5 Division teams, Pac-5 teams won six of them and of the past four games in which Empire teams played Sunset League teams, the Empire League won only one of them and that was when Kennedy of the Empire League beat the Sunset's Marina in 2011; Marina would go 0-5 in Sunset League games.

"CIF says that's not statistically valuable, with so few games," Bell said. "There's a reason there are so few games. No Empire League coach is stupid enough to schedule most of those Pac-5 and Sunset League teams."

Brea Olinda principal Jerry Halpin took part in the Century League appeal that was headed by Esperanza principal Ken Fox. They presented data that showed over the past four years Century League schools were 5-9 against Sunset schools – 5-1 against Marina and 0-8 against the other schools. The Century League appeal included enrollment figures that showed if the Sunset League was added to the Southwest Division, three of the top four Southwest Division schools in enrollment would be Sunset League schools.

The Southwest Division's counter-proposal, presented during the appeals process, stated that if the Sunset must leave the Pac-5 Division, which according to the CIF-SS recommendation would be replaced in the Pac-5 by the San Fernando Valley-based Marmonte League, that a move of the Sunset to the Inland Division would be a better competitive fit. The Southwest leagues would be willing to accept a corresponding move of the Sierra League, made up mostly of east Los Angeles County schools, to the Southwest Division for football playoffs.

"We thought for sure that the Pacific Coast League would be the league that would be moved into the Southwest Division," said Halpin, noting that PCL teams occupied two of the Southern Division's four semifinal berths in 2011 and three of the four semifinal berths in '10. When that was not in the CIF-SS plan, the Southwest leagues' focus switched to presenting their plan that would move the Sunset to the Inland Division and the Sierra League to the Southwest Division.

The CIF-SS recommendation that the Pacific Coast League remain in the Southern Division for football is not popular in the Southern Division. The Golden West League will appeal the PCL's place in the Southern Division when the second round of playoff groupings appeals happens April 4.

Nick Canzone, Segerstrom associate athletic director and the Golden West League representative in CIF matters, said Southern Division schools would be content with a four-league division of the Garden Grove, Golden West, Orange and Orange Coast leagues.

"Or we could look at some league outside of the county," Canzone said. "The Montview League (San Gabriel Valley schools) would be a natural fit."

It looks like the only way for all these dominoes to fall would be for the Sunset League to file a winning appeal that would place it in a football division other than the Southwest. But the Sunset League did not appeal is recommended placement in the Southwest Division.

So now all these unhappy leagues and their representatives can do is appeal the playoff groupings package as a whole when it is presented April 14 at the meeting of the CIF-SS Council, the section's rules-making and rules-changing body that is made up of the section's 86 leagues' representatives. If their appeal is denied by a vote of the Council at that point of the April 14 session, then the last resort is voting against passage of the playoff groupings when it comes to a vote that day.

It does look like the Sunset League is on its way to the Southwest Division for football, and the Pacific Coast League will remain in the Southern Divison.

Taking a look around Orange County high school sports:

•Private schools won 10 of the 10 championships at the CIF State Championships in boys and girls basketball in Sacramento this past week. That could be useful data to any proposal that would seek to create separate playoff divisions for the CIF-Southern Section's private and public schools.

•That data, as usual, helps the email box receive correspondence alleging without specifics or proof that the big private schools illegally recruit athletes. The thinking here is that Lakers coach Mike Brown was not coerced by Mater Dei coaches into sending sons Elijah and Cameron Brown and Nirra Fields, for whom Brown and wife Carolyn are guardians, to Mater Dei.

•The county boys and girls basketball players of the year, Xavier Johnson and Fields, both are Mater Dei seniors who transferred to Mater Dei.

•With Newport Harbor having suspended indefinitely its boys basketball program because of threats made toward Coach Larry Hirst and his wife Sheridan, who, like Larry is a teacher at Newport Harbor, some Newport Harbor basketball players and their families might be considering transferring. CIF-SS spokesman Thom Simmons said such transfer requests likely would be granted with hardship waivers, meaning the student-athletes would not have to make changes of residence or sit out a year to become athletically eligible at their new schools. When Montclair Prep of Van Nuys before this school year eliminated its athletic programs, student-athletes who transferred were declared athletically eligible at their new schools when they were granted hardship waivers.

•As for Hirst, he is not at liberty to discuss what Newport Harbor principal Michael Vossen labeled "criminal threats" against the Hirsts. "Because it is a police investigation, an ongoing police investigation, I am not allowed to say anything at this time," Larry Hirst said. Hirst long has been one of the nicest, most balanced coaches in county basketball.


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