Merced County Bias?

sjansen@mercedsunstar.comNovember 5, 2012 

What does the Sac-Joaquin Section have against Merced County?

Is Sac-Joaquin Section commissioner Pete Saco upset that Kiddieland is closed for the winter? Did members of the section playoff seeding committee have a bad burrito in Merced on their way to Yosemite?

One look at the playoff brackets and it definitely looks like the section office has some sort of vendetta against Merced County schools.

How else can you explain the rotten seeds the section dished out to Merced, Atwater and

Le Grand? It's hard to make sense of it, really.

After finishing second in the Central California Conference, Merced (7-3) thought it would be prepping for a home playoff game this week.

Sorry, Bears.

Merced was stuck with the No. 9 seed, which means it will be loading up in a bus to travel to Stockton to face No. 8 Lincoln (7-3) on Friday.

Meanwhile, Pitman (8-2), which finished behind Merced in the CCC standings and was blown out 44-13 by the Bears, was gifted the No. 6 seed and will host No. 11 Tokay on Friday night. In what world does that make sense?

Why is the No. 2 team from the CCC facing a league champion while the No. 3 team from the CCC is playing the fourth-place team from a league?

There's a glitch in the system.

"I know we talked a lot afterward," said Sac-Joaquin Section Director of Communications Will DeBoard. "It seemed as though the way the 16 teams fell in the brackets there were a couple situations -- specifically Merced-Pitman -- where we really couldn't do anything about it."

The section could have fixed the situation. All it had to to do was swap Merced and Pitman.

According to DeBoard, the idea was talked about, but they were hesitant to take away a home game from Pitman.

Not only did Merced earn the home game over Pitman with its high finish in league and head-to-head win, but the Bears also played a much tougher schedule.

You better believe there were some upset people at Merced High when the brackets were released.

"If the section can move a 7-3 Granite Bay team ahead of a 9-1 Stagg team and an 8-2 Pitman team, they're demonstrating that they are not only not following their own criteria, but in selective cases they can in fact, 'right' where the seeding format has gone wrong," Merced athletic director Scott Winton said. "I don't believe in crying foul after the seeding has been released if it is being uniformly applied. We all have the criteria and format at the beginning of the season.

"Where I think there is room to argue is when the selection committee goes off the page and magically bumps a seven-win team over teams with eight and nine wins, respectively. As much as I feel we should have received a higher seed than a team we beat soundly, it pales in comparison to what I feel is the real injustice regarding the Stagg seeding."

The section has guidelines they say they follow when filling out the brackets. One of which says they won't move a team more than two spots to correct a seeding injustice.

Explain that to Atwater, which would have gone into the Division 2 playoffs as the No. 13 seed after finishing 6-4. However, the Falcons were bumped down THREE spots to No. 16 and will open up against top seed Folsom (10-0) on Friday.

So let me get this straight. The section can move Atwater three spots down, but can't move Merced three spots up?

Huh?

It's the inconsistency that opens up the section office to criticism. The seeding committee is picking and choosing when they want to follow their own guidelines.

How else do you explain the Division 5 bracket, where Le Grand (8-2) ends up with the No. 3 seed behind No. 1 Waterford (8-2) and No. 2 Golden Sierra (7-3)?

The Bulldogs defeated Waterford by 20 points and finished with more wins than Golden Sierra, but still ended up seeded behind both teams.

Le Grand head coach Rick Martinez's Facebook status should have been: SMH (shaking my head).

"It is a relatively new system that works well most of the time, but there are situations that it can't fix," DeBoard said. "Even the humans in the room can't fix them."

Maybe we need some new humans in the room or some tweaks to the system.

How about some language in the seeding guidelines that puts more importance on league standings when seeding teams from the same league?

How about making head-to-head wins actually mean something?

Until then, at least three Merced County teams received a raw deal.

Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at (209) 385-2462 or via e-mail at sjansen@mercedsun-star.com.

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