Section proposes playoff face-lift

LODI -- The Sac-Joaquin Section recommended sweeping changes to much of its postseason in a presentation to its playoff committee during a meeting at its office Friday morning.

Those changes include playoff expansion and seeding the top teams instead of using predetermined brackets in several sports. But the most changes are to its most popular sport -- football; section officials acknowledged the current system "is basically not working."

Some of the highlights from the section's football proposal include:

The expansion from the current 58 playoff teams to 76. The format also would contract from seven divisions to six, making four 16-team brackets and two 6-team brackets.

Seeding teams according to their number of wins, then using strength-of-schedule (opponents' combined wins) as a tiebreaker. Enrollment would still be a factor -- but not the factor -- in deciding the playoff divisions.

Friday's proposal was the first of several steps toward the new postseason becoming a reality. Section officials made their proposal to the committee made up of administrators from schools throughout the section. The playoff committee will meet a handful of times over the next two months, passing its final proposal to the board of managers. The board of managers would then vote to approve or deny the proposal.

In football, the section would be split into three groups. The first group would include the 10 Division I and II leagues. The next group would include the 10 Division III, IV and V leagues. The third group would be the four football leagues in divisions VI and VII. The section would then take 32 playoff teams from each of the first two groups and 12 from the third group.

The league champions and runners-up would receive automatic playoff berths. That would leave 12 at-large berths in the first two groups, and those teams would be determined by number of wins through the regular season.

Each group of 32 then would be split by enrollment into two, 16-team playoff brackets. The 16 largest playoff schools would form Division I, with the next 16 forming Division II. The process would be repeated for the other two groups. The brackets would then be seeded by number of wins.

"It's going to create more excitement, that's for sure," said Escalon athletic director and football coach Mark Loureiro, also a member of the playoff committee.

Several football coaches were at the meeting. The majority cited two concerns they had with the proposal.

"I think we need to find ways to shrink our season instead of expanding it," said Tony Franks, who coaches St. Mary's of Stockton. "We could have 16 football games in a season. In my opinion, that's way too much."

But Whitney (Rocklin) coach Mike Gimenez said he liked the proposal.

"We played 13 games last year and we played 13 games this year," Gimenez said. "Our kids wanted to keep playing. They wanted that 14th game.

"I like having 16 teams. It creates a lot of excitement."

The new proposal solely seeds by number of wins, so there are possibilities that league runners-up could be seeded higher than league champions.

"It still needs to mean something to win a league championship," Franks said.

The section also released what the playoffs would have looked like had it used the new proposal this year. Division II appeared to be much stronger than any other division; the top four seeds were Grant (state open division champion), Granite Bay (lost to Grant in playoffs), St. Mary's (state Division II runner-up) and Pleasant Grove (section Division I finalist).

"We're trying to avoid the BCS here," section commissioner Pete Saco said, referring to the annual controversy in college football. "We're trying to get the best teams to decide it on the field."

The playoff committee will meet again at the section offices Jan. 30.

Bee staff writer Will DeBoard can be reached at or 578-2300.

Related stories from Merced Sun-Star