The Central California Conference has been in existence for 60 years and Turlock High has been a member for every one of them.
Pending approval by Sac-Joaquin Section schools and the section’s Board of Managers, Turlock and crosstown rival Pitman will become members of the Modesto Metro Conference, starting with the 2018-19 school year.
With enrollments north of 2,100 students, both Turlock schools realized there was zero chance of not being paired with nearby Modesto, Enochs and Gregori, all with enrollments greater than 2,200.
But at the first realignment meeting in December, Pitman athletic director Dave Walls told the committee that Turlock and Pitman, wherever they ended up, wanted to play in a league called the Central California Conference.
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After all, Turlock and Modesto High were founding members of the CCC and that’s got to count for something, they reckoned.
1957 The year the Central California Conference came into existence
But it begs a chicken-or-the-egg type question: Are Turlock and Pitman leaving to join the MMC? Or did they evict five Merced County teams and convince four other Modesto City Schools to join them in the CCC?
If “Who cares?” was your initial response to those questions, you should know that Turlock, Pitman and the five Merced County schools all care.
Kids grow up dreaming of winning championships and chanting, “C-C-C! C-C-C!” A few years ago, when the San Joaquin Athletic Association split into two leagues – the new league being the Tri-City Athletic League – there was a kerfuffle over which league got to be called SJAA. A coin flip settled the issue.
Same thing when the CCC split up in 2004 and the MMC was created – coin flip.
While Merced and Atwater were not charter members of the CCC, they’re not Johnny-come-latelys, either. Atwater joined in 1966 and Merced will celebrate 50 years in the conference next season. Golden Valley also has a little sweat equity invested in the league with 23 years of membership.
So, who owns the name Central California Conference? It’s probably a question only King Solomon could answer. But let’s try.
Know who came up with the name Central California Conference? None other than the legendary Joe Debely, Turlock High’s all-time winningest coach football coach from 1933-41 and 1946-1953, and was the gent for whom the Turlock stadium – shared by the Bulldogs and Pride – is named.
(Bonus trivia: Debely also came up with the name Sac-Joaquin Section.)
That lends a little weight to the Turlock/Modesto argument. Then again, possession is nine-tenths of the law and, right now the section has designated Merced, Golden Valley, El Capitan, Atwater, Buhach Colony, Central Valley and Patterson as the Central California Conference. That means five members of the proposed CCC currently play in the CCC.
Of the teams in the proposed MMC, Modesto, Downey, Enochs and Gregori currently reside in the MMC. Only Turlock and Pitman are currently in the CCC, though Modesto and Downey formerly had CCC membership cards.
It seems a lot of teams can claim that the CCC is, or was once, their home. But who owns the dwelling now? Who holds the deed?
Well, I’m a terrible candidate to answer this question. I attended Merced High, so I have a nostalgic twinge to see my alma mater remain in the league in which I played. My twin daughters are graduates of Buhach Colony … same deal. But I currently live about six blocks from Turlock High School and my 8-year-old son already sports a blue and gold “Block T” baseball cap in anticipation of becoming a Bulldog one day. And four of my best pals are Turlock graduates.
Truthfully, I’d like to see the local conferences follow the lead of Southern California, where the names often are based on geographical traits of the region: Arrowhead, Camino, Canyon, Citrus, Coastal, Condor, Desert Sky, Freeway, Gold Coast, Hacienda, Manzanita, Marine, Pacific, Seaview, Sunkist, Trinity are but a few examples of SoCal conference names.
We could have the Almond Blossom League or the Foothill Conference or the Santa Fe Ahtletic League – something, anything, that better reflects our region.
So, let’s do this. Let’s conduct an online poll. This column will run in both The Modesto Bee and Merced Sun-Star, so both constituencies will read it and both constituencies can vote. Visit my Twitter page – @modbeepreps – and let your voice be heard.
The future of the Central California Conference depends on it.