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Bay Area football coaches’ proposal calls for separating private, public schools

The North Coast Section Board of Managers made its decision. There will be no tweaking of the system this fall for football teams that have to go through De La Salle to qualify for a California Interscholastic Federation state playoff game.
But in the world of high school athletics, decisions rarely last for extended periods. Proposals get floated. Change constantly happens.
One proposal that could go through the section’s governance process in the next school year would no doubt be groundbreaking if approved — not just in the NCS but across the state.
It would not only separate De La Salle from public schools in the section football playoffs. It would lump all NCS private and charter schools into two divisions — large and small — with the remaining five divisions going exclusively to (non-charter) public schools.
Liberty football coach Ryan Partridge and former Dublin football coach Matt Hoefs presented the proposal during time set aside for public speakers at last week’s Board of Managers meeting.
Rather than use familiar terms — public and private — they called the two sides compulsory (public) and choice (private/charter).
The proposal was not on the agenda nor up for vote. But it might be at future meetings.
Could separation actually happen?
“I think we can,” NCS commissioner Gil Lemmon said. “You go through your governance process. I don’t think there is anything that would prevent the North Coast Section from doing that. What I would say, I guess, is that I don’t know if that is really following the mission of the North Coast Section.
“If you separate public and private — and they had a different term for it — then what is the next thing you’re going to do to separate?”
In his address to the Board of Managers, Partridge said the idea was first shown to him by Hoefs, a 2002 Foothill graduate who was the head coach at Arroyo for one year before moving on to Dublin, where he coached in 2017 and 2018. Hoefs teaches in the Antioch Unified School District.
Partridge liked what Hoefs put on paper.
“I truly believe this is the most competitively equitable NCS playoff proposal NCS has ever seen, and we have data to prove that,” Partridge told the Board of Managers.
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The data illustrates what most already know, that public schools struggle to win section titles.
The proposal notes that 108 schools in the NCS played 11-man football last fall — 16 choice and 92 compulsory. All 16 choice schools qualified for the playoffs while 54 of the 92 compulsory schools made it.
Large choice schools played 74 games against compulsory schools during the season, winning all but 16 of them, with a 24.6 average margin of victory, according to the proposal.
Such dominance is nothing new.
The data shows that the 16 choice schools have won 61.5 percent of the NCS titles over the past 10 years, 32 in all. The 92 compulsory schools have won 38.5 percent of the section crowns, 20 in all.
“This major discrepancy between choice and compulsory schools in playoff competition shows the lack of competitive equity between the two,” the proposal states. “Money, resources and limitless boundaries to attract players leaves compulsory schools at a disadvantage that can only be corrected with separating the two in section playoffs.
“By creating two choice school playoff divisions, 2 of 16 (12.5 percent) choice schools are guaranteed to advance to the CIF state bowl games. With five compulsory divisions, only 5 of 92 (5.4 percent) schools will advance to the CIF state bowl games. This format still gives the choice schools the statistical advantage to have a higher percentage represented with a regional bowl bid.”
The teams would be divided using enrollment as a baseline but incorporating the NCS’s competitive-equity point system, which moves teams up or down depending on their results over the previous three years.
The two choice divisions would each have up to eight teams. The five compulsory divisions would each have up to 12 teams, with the top four seeds receiving byes in a full bracket.
Liberty has made school history in two seasons under Partridge, winning its first NCS championship (2017) and first state title (2018).
There were no private or charter schools in Liberty’s bracket when it won the Division I section crown.
Last season, the Lions beat Clayton Valley Charter 42-14 in an NCS Open Division semifinal before losing to De La Salle 42-7 in the final. Liberty then took advantage of a CIF rule that allowed Open Division runners-up to advance to the state playoffs. That rule no longer exists.
Liberty high school celebrates their 33-21 win over Valley Christian in their CIF Northern California Division I-A championship football game in San Jose, Calif., on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group) 
The large choice schools, the proposal notes, would have De La Salle at the top but also potentially would include Cardinal Newman, Clayton Valley Charter, Bishop O’Dowd, Marin Catholic, Moreau Catholic, Justin Siena and St. Mary’s-Berkeley, most of which are smaller in student population than De La Salle.
Outside of the Concord powerhouse, the strongest Northern California private school programs generally are in the West Catholic Athletic League of the Central Coast Section (Valley Christian, St. Francis and Serra) and the Sac-Joaquin Section (St. Mary’s-Stockton, Central Catholic and Jesuit), though last season Cardinal Newman finished No. 33 in CalPreps.com’s state computer rankings.
“If you look at our schedule, we try to schedule as many parochial schools as we can,” De La Salle coach Justin Alumbaugh said. “We want our kids to get challenged. We are open to a lot of different things and a lot of different proposals. We just want a good, solid playoff system, and it just seems like we’re kind of meandering.
“It’s hard because up here there are less total private schools, unless you start including the WCAL. If you include them and include some private schools from the Sac-Joaquin, now you’ve got something.”
Alumbaugh added that he wishes that all of the Division I coaches and athletic directors could get in a room and find a solution.
“I believe there is an answer out there that fits public, private, big school, small school,” he said. “There has to be. But the problem is you get Division II or III and they’re not seeing what Division I is seeing, and Division I isn’t seeing what Division V is seeing.”
NCS president Eric Volta, superintendent of the district that includes Liberty, said the freedom given to private schools differs widely from public schools. He mentioned being at a mall and seeing a large private-school poster with athletes in uniform displayed prominently.
“There were some pictures of classrooms on there, in the lower corner,” said Volta, who declined to name the school. “But it wasn’t the major focus. That school needs to attract kids. They need to get people to want to come there. I understand that. I don’t fault them for putting up that poster.
“But if Antioch or Pittsburg or any other school were to do something like that, to try to get kids to apply for intradistrict or try to get fake addresses to come, we would be guilty of trying to recruit kids into our schools. There is a fundamental difference between the schools. They have to provide what parents want. We have to provide what the California Department of Education says we have to provide and how we do it.”
Of the 32 NCS titles private/charter schools have won the past decade, 10 belong to De La Salle. No other choice school has won more than four. No public school has won more than five.
De La Salle has not lost to any NCS school (public, private, charter) since 1991 and this fall will be going for its 28th consecutive section championship.
“We’re so proud of De La Salle and what they’ve accomplished,” said Lemmon, who is retiring at the end of the school year. “But they are going to lose at some point. That’s going to happen. I don’t know when. It wasn’t in my time frame. But I believe it will happen at some point.
“De La Salle has raised the level of competition. Our schools need to use them as an example to develop their own programs.”
How the divisions might look, according to the proposal:
Large choice: No. 1 De La Salle, No. 2 Cardinal Newman, No. 3 Clayton Valley Charter, No. 4 Bishop O’Dowd, No. 5 Marin Catholic, No. 6 Moreau Catholic, No. 7 Justin Siena, No. 8 St. Mary’s-Berkeley.
Small choice: No. 1 Salesian, No. 2 St. Bernard’s, No. 3 Stellar Prep, No. 4 St. Patrick-St. Vincent, No. 5 Berean Christian, No. 6 Harker, No. 7 California School of the Deaf, No. 8 St. Vincent de Paul.
Division I compulsory: No. 1 Liberty, No. 2 Pittsburg, No. 3 Freedom, No. 4 Monte Vista, No. 5 California, No. 6 Antioch, No. 7 Granada, No. 8 Amador Valley, No. 9 San Leandro, No. 10 Deer Valley, No. 11 Foothill, No. 12 James Logan.
Division II compulsory: No. 1 San Ramon Valley, No. 2 Rancho Cotate, No. 3 Campolindo, No. 4 Vintage, No. 5 Ukiah, No. 6 Santa Rosa, No. 7 Windsor, No. 8 Montgomery, No. 9 Redwood, No. 10 Livermore, No. 11 Casa Grande, No. 12 Alameda.
Division III compulsory: No. 1 Las Lomas, No. 2 El Cerrito, No. 3 Acalanes, No. 4 Benicia, No. 5 American Canyon, No. 6 Maria Carrillo, No. 7 De Anza, No. 8 Hayward, No. 9 Tamalpais, No. 10 Tennyson, No. 11 Concord, No. 12 Kennedy-Fremont.
Division IV compulsory: No. 1 Eureka, No. 2 Encinal, No. 3 Miramonte, No. 4 Del Norte, No. 5 San Marin, No. 6 Pinole Valley, No. 7 Kennedy-Richmond, No. 8 Terra Linda, No. 9 Analy, No. 10 Petaluma, No. 11 Alhambra, No. 12 Sonoma Valley.
Division V compulsory: No. 1 Fortuna, No. 2 Middletown, No. 3 Kelseyville, No. 4 Piedmont, No. 5 Fort Bragg, No. 6 St. Helena, No. 7 Cloverdale, No. 8 El Molino, No. 9 Clear Lake, No. 10 Arcata, No. 11 Lower Lake, No. 12 Hoopa Valley.

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