Question: You recently wrote an article about the Woodland/Elk Grove baseball game at Raley Field. Woodland is the defending Division II baseball
champion, but has "dropped to Division III". I also see that the Division III Tri-County Conference contains Yuba City, a D-I team last year, and Pioneer, a Division IV team last year.
So, the question is: What are the criteria for placing high school teams in divisions/leagues?
Woodland used to be a Division I school, but presumably lost considerable enrollment when Pioneer was opened. Last football season I read that, at the state level, enrollment is the sole criterion for placing schools in divisions. Why does this region do it differently?
-- Alan Shank, Woodland
Answer: When it comes to what schools are in which leagues, enrollment isn't nearly as important these days as competitive balance, scope of programs and geographic location. When they formed the new Tri-County Conference, Sac-Joaquin Section officials figured that older, larger schools such as Woodland, Yuba City and Natomas would lose some of their enrollment to their respective newer rival schools Pioneer, River Valley and Inderkum, so eventually all should be of similar size.
With more new schools coming on board, they also wanted to create more playoff divisions, going from five to seven divisions in sports like football and soccer. So that meant established D-II leagues like the Capital Athletic League (Bella Vista, Del Campo etc.) and Solano County Athletic Conference (Benicia, Vanden, etc.) would now compete at the D-3 level along with a new Tri-County Conference. So schools with declining enrollments such as Yuba City (D-1 in 2005-06) and Woodland (D-II in 2005-06) had to drop down a division while a school like Pioneer (D-IV in 2005-06), with increasing enrollment, moved up. But these schools are united more by the similiarties of their programs and communities and their geographic proximity than enrollment.
State football is a whole different story. Whereas section playoffs are under the auspices of the various largely autonomous members of the California Interscholastic Federation, the state playoffs are sponsored by CIF headquarters.
To keep things simple in a mammoth state, officials decided to have three division championships based on enrollment. So the largest one-third enrollment schools (1751-plus) in Northern California were all lumped into Division I, the middle third (1001-1750) into Division II and the bottom third (1000 or lower) into Division III.
So that's why we had D-III section football champion Del Campo and D-II section football champion Grant being placed among the D-I schools for state playoff consideration (and having no chance because of the presence of De La Salle). If the state football playoffs continue to spark a lot of interest, the CIF no doubt will expand divisions, which should alleviate some of the perceived unfairness.
-- Bill Paterson