STOCKTON -- Historic league rivalries, some of which have existed since World War II, will fade into the pages of high school yearbooks under the realignment plan proposed Tuesday by the Sac-Joaquin Section.
If early reaction is any indication, those rivalries will die hard.
Every league in the Stanislaus District would gain and-or lose teams starting with the 2014-15 school year under the plan, but no leagues face more radical change than the Modesto Metro and Central California conferences. They include public high schools in Modesto, Turlock, Atwater and Merced.
The new MMC would include Oakdale, Atwater and Buhach Colony along with current members Beyer, Davis, Downey and Johansen, with Merced's El Capitan added upon starting varsity sports in 2015 or 2016. The schools would compete at the Division 2 level in the playoffs for most sports, with football continuing its own playoff format.
The new CCC would be considered a Division 1 conference and would absorb Enochs, Gregori and Modesto from the MMC to join current members Golden Valley, Merced, Pitman and Turlock. It would add Modesto Christian for basketball only. All other Modesto Christian sports would move down from the Trans-Valley League to the Southern League.
Merced and Atwater, two of the CCC's oldest rivals, would be in different leagues.
"We're not happy about it," said Merced Union High School Superintendent Scott Scambray. "They're not taking into account that Merced and Golden Valley are losing student population. By 2014-15 and 15-16, both schools will be below 2,000 students. Golden Valley is scheduled to be below Atwater and Buhach Colony. For some reason they are not taking that into account."
Other significant moves would take place in the Western Athletic Conference. Under the initial proposal, Lathrop and Weston Ranch would join the WAC with Patterson and Central Valley moving to the Valley Oak League.
"It would be interesting to mix it up a little," Golden Valley head football coach Dennis Stubbs said. "If it makes sense, I'm all for it. My initital reaction is this doesn't make a lot of sense."
The committee will meet several more times, seeking input and possible changes to the plan from schools and the public before recommending a plan to the section's board of managers for a final vote, targeted for April 24.
At the next meeting, scheduled for Jan. 29, the committee will begin hearing the formal responses and possible counterproposals from the leagues.
Much resistance expected
The section shuffles league membership every four years, using projected enrollment and recent competitive success as primary criteria.
In past realignments, few changes were made between the unveiling of the plan and ratification. However, a section official said Tuesday that this particular cycle could see an unusual amount of resistance to the proposal, particularly from the southern half of the section. The Sac-Joaquin Section includes about 280 schools and stretches from Merced to east of Sacramento and then west to the Vacaville and Napa areas.
Because the details of the realignment proposal had remained rumors until Tuesday, committee members, coaches and school officials could do little but offer instant reactions to the shuffling after seeing the plan for the first time.
"As a member of the committee, this is the first I'm seeing this proposal," said former Davis High Principal Chuck Edmonds, who is a nonvoting co-chair of the realignment committee and commissioner of the MMC.
Later, during public comment, Edmonds said he anticipated some resistance from Modesto schools and said he plans to enter into discussions with administrators from the CCC and Oakdale to ensure any movement between leagues addresses the concerns of all involved.
The proposal had many local administrators and coaches shaking their heads.
"I would be totally against it," Buhach Colony head football coach Kevin Swartwood said. "We've got a great league, it's competitive. I know we're all going to be the same size. I know Turlock and Pitman are a bit bigger, but it's still competitive. If we just added El Cap, it would make it even better.
"Just add El Cap and leave us alone. Knowing the MMC schools from the time I was an athletic director, I'm pretty sure they feel the same -- leave us alone."
'A sad day,' coach says
As word of the proposal wafted through the corridors of MMC schools, reaction was quick and negative.
"It makes me a little sad," said Downey football coach Jeremy Plaa. "I think it's a sad day for our school district. I have a lot of mixed feelings. I like the league we're in. There is a convenience to it. I would have liked the enrollment to be more equal so we could play each other."
Modesto City Schools is formulating a way to draw new boundaries that would eliminate much of its inherent enrollment disparities. Modesto High has 2,470 students and Davis 1,289.
The cost of transporting teams to and from games was cited by Merced athletic director Scott Winton as one of the reasons he's against the proposal.
"The obvious issue is how this is going to affect the bottom line as it pertains to our transportation budget," he said. "It doesn't make sense or cents to drive 43 miles past two schools in Atwater with similar enrollments for a league game in north Modesto."
Oakdale athletic director Dave Bacigalupi cited tradition as a major reason for wanting to keep the Mustangs in the Valley Oak League.
"We've been in the VOL for more than 70 years," he said. "With all due respect to the MMC, we have no interest in joining them."
The second part of Oakdale's move to the MMC would be a promotion from Division 3 to Division 2, which Bacigalupi also rejects.
"Putting us in Division 2 isn't fair to us," Bacigalupi said. "We've worked our butts off to be good and now we're being punished for being good. We have been successful in most sports, and it doesn't seem fair to us that we're being put in a bigger division because of that success."
Modesto Bee staff writer Ron Agostini contributed to this report.
Modesto Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at (209) 578-2150 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sun-Star reporter Shawn Jansen can be reached at (209) 385-2462 or email@example.com.