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CIF has first reading of North County Conference realignment

A first reading of the North County Conference league realignment was brought to the CIF Board of Managers during their Feb. 2 meeting.

The realignment, which will create a fourth North County Conference league, is expected to be approved at the April 27 meeting of the CIF Board of Managers. The re-leaguing would take effect for the 2010-11 seasons.

“With the addition of the two new schools (Del Norte and Mission Vista), the conference felt it was time to expand to a four-league conference,” said Mission Hills High School principal Brad Lichtman, who is the 2009-10 president of the North County Conference.

The North County Conference will have 20 teams playing varsity football in 2010 and 23 teams playing other sports during the 2010-11 seasons. Fallbrook will be in the Avocado East League and will be joined by Escondido, Mission Hills, Vista, and San Pasqual for football and by those four schools and San Marcos for all other sports.

The last North County Conference realignment took place in 2008. “It’s standard practice to open up realignment every two years,” Lichtman said.

In the absence of new schools, the realignment discussion usually considers factors such as geography and school size. The current realignment process takes into effect the addition of varsity programs at Del Norte High School and Mission Vista High School. Canyon Crest will now be in the North County Conference for all sports in which the Ravens participate, and San Dieguito Academy will also be part of the North County Conference.

Prior to the 2009 openings of Del Norte and Mission Vista, Mission Hills was the most recent North County Conference school to open; the Grizzlies began CIF participation in the 2004-05 season and became the 19th North County Conference school. Del Norte, which became the fifth comprehensive high school in the Poway Unified School District, opened with ninth-grade and tenth-grade students and the Nighthawks will have varsity football in Fall 2010.

Mission Vista, the third school in the Vista Unified School District, opened with freshmen only and will not have varsity football in 2010.

Canyon Crest and San Dieguito Academy are both in the San Dieguito Union High School District. Parents in that district have the option to send their children to any of the four high schools in that district. Torrey Pines and La Costa Canyon are comprehensive high schools which participate in most CIF sports, while Canyon Crest and San Dieguito Academy have more limited offerings.

Canyon Crest and San Dieguito Academy are currently in the Coastal Conference, although Canyon Crest is already in the North County Conference for water polo. An October 2007 CIF Board of Managers action formed the Frontier League for independent schools and required all schools to be in a league to be eligible for CIF playoffs.

Some schools in leagues had been playing as independents in sports the league itself did not offer, and in 2008 Canyon Crest was admitted to the North County Conference and the Valley League for water polo. Neither Canyon Crest nor San Dieguito Academy has football.

The North County Conference realignment process begins when the senior principal convenes a committee of one administrator and one athletic director from each league. Scott Fisher of Poway High School selected those six members in Spring 2009. Fisher was the Palomar League principal on the committee while Peggy Brose of Rancho Bernardo High School was the Palomar League athletic director.

Fallbrook High School principal Rod King, who was the 2008-09 North County Conference president, represented the Avocado League along with Torrey Pines High School athletic director Anne Meigs. San Marcos High School principal Julie Mottershaw and Valley Center High School athletic director Mike Cummings were the Valley League committee members.

The committee sent out surveys to principals and athletic directors of all North County Conference high schools asking them to provide the most important criteria for the new league realignment as well as the priorities for those criteria. Three criteria were used in the realignment.

The most important criteria was geographic proximity, which also included traditional rivalries and budget considerations. “All three of those are related,” Lichtman said. Lichtman noted that rivals tend to be geographic neighbors and that budget included not only transportation costs but also fan admissions. He noted that closer road games provide more visiting fans and thus more revenue, as do rivalry games.

The second most important criteria was school size, while the third criteria considered was competitive equity. The committee deliberated and proposed a new alignment which was presented at a North County Conference meeting. Questions were answered at that meeting, but the matter was an information item only. “There was some concern expressed by a small handful of principals,” Lichtman said of the meeting.

The committee analyzed the input before opting not to make changes. “It was not sufficient to alter their decision because it didn’t meet the criteria,” Lichtman said.

The committee returned the proposed leagues to the full North County Conference in the fall, and a vote supported the new alignment. While some principals voted against the new leagues, all were pleased with the process. “There was unanimity amongst the principals that this was an excellent process,” Lichtman said.

On Jan. 13, another North County Conference vote was taken, and that vote approved the submittal of the new alignment to the CIF Board of Managers for CIF approval.

Although only games against league opponents will count in the league standings, each football team will also play three cross-league games. Those cross-league games are an effort to reconcile rivalries with other considerations which led rivals to be placed in different leagues, although a school can opt out of a game against one of those opponents by mutual consent if health and safety concerns are evident. The number of cross-league games in other sports will be based on the number of total games allowed in those sports.

The Avocado West League will consist of Carlsbad, El Camino, La Costa Canyon, Oceanside, and Rancho Buena Vista for all sports. Poway, Ramona, Rancho Bernardo, Torrey Pines, and Westview will play football in the Palomar League while Mount Carmel will be added for other sports.

The Valley League will consist of Del Norte, Mount Carmel, Orange Glen, San Marcos, and Valley Center for football and Canyon Crest, Del Norte, Mission Vista, Orange Glen, San Dieguito Academy, and Valley Center for all other sports.

If Mission Vista chooses to have varsity football in 2011, when the school will have juniors but not seniors, the North County Conference will determine a league for the Timberwolves.

The North County Conference expanded to three leagues in 1998, when Valley Center High School opened and became the conference’s 17th team. Westview became the conference’s 18th team when it opened in 2002. Fallbrook was moved from the Palomar League to the Avocado League during the 1998 realignment and has been in the Avocado League since then.

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