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CIF approves split of Division V playoffs

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

The CIF San Diego Section’s Board of Managers approved a proposal to split the CIF Division V playoffs based on enrollment.

The board of managers’ vote Wednesday, May 17, to create Division V-A and Division V‑AA for playoff purposes was unanimous. The first reading at the April 5 board of managers’ meeting was a non-voting item but had no opposition.

“We’re very excited to have this coming forward,” CIF commissioner Joe Heinz said.

In 2013, the CIF San Diego Section’s board of managers transitioned CIF playoff divisions from enrollment-based to being based on competitive balance. That placed small schools with talented programs, including private schools with no limited attendance areas, into higher divisions while placing some programs of larger schools into lower divisions.

The result meant that schools with larger enrollments often won CIF Division V championships, and in many cases the Division V playoff berths were dominated by larger schools. The March 2022 board of managers meeting included a proposed enrollment cap of 1,000 for Division V schools, but that proposal was defeated.

“We saw the concerns that were brought forward,” Heinz said.

The proposal by small schools to split the Division V playoffs based on enrollment turned out to be the compromise.

“It will add an additional championship to our team sports,” Heinz said. “We’re looking out for not just our largest schools but also small schools.”

The enrollment-based split applies only to Division V. Once all five divisions have been set Division V will be re-ranked based on the current year’s total school enrollment. For each sport Division V would be split in half based on the total number of Division V schools that year. Schools whose enrollment is in the top half would be in Division V-A and schools in the bottom half would be placed in Division V‑AA. If a Division V-AA school requests to move up to Division V-A the CIF will check with the schools at the bottom of Division V-A and inquire if those schools would like to move down to Division V-AA.

Teams in both Division V-A and Division V-AA would continue to use Division V points for the power rankings which are the primary factor for CIF playoff selection and seeding. For current CIF playoffs with 12-team brackets, the playoffs would be split into eight Division V-A teams and eight Division V‑AA teams. For 16-team brackets the revised playoffs would have 12 Division V‑A entrants and 12 Division V-AA berths. Only the Division V-A champion would be eligible for entry into state or regional playoffs.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the students in the small school districts,” Ramon Leyba, interim superintendent of Warner Unified School District and interim principal of Warner High School, said.

He represented the Warner district at the May 17 board of managers’ meeting.

Warner High School, which began the school year with 56 students, is the smallest public school in the CIF San Diego Section and the third-smallest school overall.

“We have an opportunity for a championship,” Leyba said.

Ten CIF San Diego Section member schools have fewer than 100 students. Warner and Julian High School, which had 96 students at the start of the 2022-2023 school year, are the only two public schools with fewer than 100 students. Escondido Adventist Academy, with 43 students, is the smallest school in the San Diego Section.

Borrego Springs High School had 124 students at the start of the school year and is the third-smallest public school.

“I think it’s great for the equality of small schools,” Ryan Wikert, principal of Borrego Springs High School, said.

He represented the Borrego district at the May 17 meeting.

“It gives our kids a chance to get a championship and get an opportunity that big schools have,” Wikert said.

He is a 1999 graduate of Temecula Valley High School and played football, basketball and baseball for the Golden Bears. Wikert’s mother, Pam, is currently a nurse for the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District.

Bonsall Unified School District superintendent Joseph Clevenger is the BUSD representative to the CIF board of managers. Bonsall High School began 2022-2023 with 318 students, making Bonsall the fourth-smallest public school, but Clevenger had previously been the principal of Rancho Buena Vista High School. Clevenger also attended Rancho Buena Vista High School as a student; he played basketball and volleyball for the Longhorns and was part also of the school’s surf club which is not affiliated with the CIF.

“I think it’s a really positive step forward for all students,” Clevenger said. “Having some parity in competition is a wonderful thing. I think this only increases opportunities for students in all schools.”

Joe Naiman can be reached by email at [email protected].


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