STOCKTON — The Sac-Joaquin Section is faced with the unenviable task of trying to realign athletic conferences for about 180 schools and, as if the section didn't know it already, there's no way under the stars it can please everybody.
That was never more evident than at the section's realignment meeting Tuesday, when representatives from many of those schools were on hand to offer their take on the section's initial outline.
The Modesto Metro Conference and the Central California Conference linked arms for a joint proposal, grouping the Modesto schools together while the Merced, Atwater and Turlock schools formed another conference.
Becky Meredith, director of planning and facilities for Modesto City Schools, made a pitch for the Modesto schools to remain banded. She pointed to the Board's expected approval of redrawn boundaries on Monday as a leveler of enrollments.
"In two to five years, we don't know what enrollments will be," said Meredith. "My belief is that in two years, we'll see growth because of modest improvements in job growth and employment."
The section has the MMC and CCC ticketed for Division 1. But Merced High, once a behemoth with an enrollment of 3,500 before the opening of Golden Valley in 1994, will have a projected enrollment of about 1,800 when El Capitan High School opens this fall (all the Merced schools figure to have similar enrollments). The Merced Union High School District schools hope to escape Division 1.
"We don't think we're trying to escape anything except misplacement," said Craig Chavez, executive director for MUHSD.
For the time being, the section adopted the MMC/CCC's Plan B: The MMC is made up of Beyer, Downey, Enochs, Gregori, Modesto, the two Turlock schools and Modesto Christian (for basketball only). The CCC is comprised of Davis, Johansen, the three Merced schools and two Atwater schools.
Modesto Christian, a small school for which it's difficult to find a home because of its basketball might, tried to make things easier for several leagues when it volunteered to go independent in boys and girls hoops, while staying in the TVL for all other sports.
"We've always proposed that we belong at the highest level in basketball," said Greg Pearce, MC athletic director. "But there's no doubt in my mind we belong in the TVL (for other sports).
"We believe that we need to play where we belong and not cause any problems for the other conferences."
The section agreed and placed MC in the TVL, with its hoops teams parked in the MMC for now. The section prefers to not open the Pandora's box of independence. Also joining the TVL, for basketball only, was Ripon Christian.
Meanwhile, Central Catholic -- winners of a state football title last month and a traditional power on the gridiron and the diamond -- was nearly booted from the Western Athletic Conference and into the Valley Oak League. That notion, however, was voted down by the executive committee, 5-4.
"It would not come as a surprise if somebody brought forth an official proposal regarding Central Catholic at the next meeting," said Will DeBoard, SJS director of communications.
Meanwhile, the Mother Lode League made it clear that it wanted no part of the section's plan to add Sonora to the MLL, citing a competitive imbalance. Ultimately, the section proposed Sonora for MLL membership, which is what the Wildcats wanted all along, cutting travel in half for league games.
Using enrollment projections and athletic success as measuring sticks, the section looks to realign its leagues every four years. The SJS released its initial plan for the 2014-15 school year on Jan. 8, and will do further retooling before submitting a final proposal to its board of managers on April 24.
For the most part, the meeting centered on three basic themes: travel, competitive equity, and rivalries.
Travel is a two-pronged problem as it's not only an economic concern, but it can create a hardship on students with additional time away from classes, too. Competitive equity? Nobody wants to have their chances for league championships reduced by some newcomer, and games against traditional rivals are good for gate receipts.