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Santa Maria Sun / Sports Lead

The following article was posted on January 16th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 45 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 45

New league lineup

Local athletic directors discuss possible changes in the Pac 7 and Los Padres Leagues

BY KRISTINA SEWELL

There are 16 high schools that comprise the current Pac 7 and Los Padres athletic leagues. From Paso to Cabrillo, from Morro Bay to Santa Ynez, there’s a wide range of athletic talent and school size that keeps competition unpredictable and exciting.

The current leagues have seven teams in each: St. Joseph, Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, Righetti, Atascadero, and Pioneer Valley high schools make up the Pac 7 league. The Los Padres league includes Lompoc, Morro Bay, Templeton, Cabrillo, Nipomo, Santa Ynez, and Santa Maria high schools.

Every four years, per CIF regulations, local leagues are required to re-evaluate and reconfigure if need be. Righetti Athletic Director Eric Albright said these meetings usually focus on competition within the leagues. This year, however, the athletic directors came up with a different solution that could change the league line-ups for the 2014-2015 season.

“This year it was more about trying to save money,” Albright said. “We’re trying to be proactive.”

Facing limited educational funding and a tenuous economy, Pac 7 and Los Padres league athletic directors came together in December 2012 to come up with different scenarios that would meet the leagues’ funding demands and competitive needs. Another catalyst for discussion is the addition of Mission Prep and Orcutt Academy high schools, which are applying for admission to the leagues.

According to three athletic directors participating in the discussions, the most promising proposal would be the creation of two eight-school leagues based on a county divide—and hopefully keeping traditional rivalries in mind.

Tentatively, the Pac 7 would be comprised of San Luis Obispo County schools: Nipomo, Arroyo Grande, San Luis, Mission Prep, Morro Bay, Templeton, Paso Robles, and Atascadero. The Los Padres would have Lompoc, Cabrillo, Santa Ynez, St. Joseph, Righetti, Pioneer Valley, Santa Maria, and Orcutt Academy.

“We all have our own schools, but we’re trying to work together and do what’s best for everyone,” Albright said.

The accompanying idea is to establish four teams in four football leagues. Unofficially, the leagues are set with Cabrillo, Santa Maria, Orcutt, and Santa Ynez in one, with Righetti, St. Joseph, Pioneer Valley, and Lompoc in another. Arroyo Grande, San Luis, Paso Robles, and Atascadero would make up the third league, with Mission Prep, Templeton, Morro Bay, and Nipomo in the fourth.

CIF dictates that there are only 20 contests allowed per season; Albright said this new arrangement would eliminate the need to fill schedules with non-league games. These four leagues are slated to have crossover games; each school would have seven local games and three non-league games.

“Traveling to non league games can get expensive; football can get really expensive when you have to play teams in L.A.,” Albright said.

This new arrangement also has the potential to save local schools on travel costs. Santa Ynez Athletic Director Ken Fredrickson said this new configuration would save the schools about $5,000 to $10,000. However, because of their geographic locations, Nipomo and Arroyo Grande wouldn’t save as much money on travel costs, according to officials.

Athletic directors deliberated over the football situation and agreed that the four football leagues would be better competitively and financially.

“The schedule will be the same, but it will be more equitable for the football teams,” Fredrickson said.

He added that the four-team, four-league football configuration is something he hasn’t seen before.

Albright said another up side to four football leagues would be more playoff berths; this arrangement would allow two teams from each league to gain a shot at playoffs.

Another major benefit and talking point at the meeting was the potential this proposal has to reduce the amount of time athletes spend out of class. According to Fredrickson, each school has 18 league trips a year (round trip). Fredrickson’s rough calculations showed that on average, north SLO County athletes—from Morro Bay and Templeton in particular—lose about 150 hours of class time during the season.

“On average, athletes are missing 70 hours a week of class,” Fredrickson said.

By establishing the leagues based on a county split, the need for cross-county travel would decrease, as would the time athletes spend out of class. This would benefit athletes and make administrators happy.

Despite the benefits these new leagues could bring, Nipomo Athletic Director Jim Souza is concerned how this new setup would impact Nipomo athletics. Souza, in his first year as athletic director, said he didn’t vote in favor of the proposal.

“Personally, this is not good for NHS athletics outside of football,” Souza said. “Pac 7 is much more competitive for winning league championships.”

Souza prefers the Los Padres league for football, as the school is starting to build rivalries.

“Building rivalries engages fans and the community,” Souza said. “We’ve been in different leagues so often, it’s hard to maintain tradition.” While Nipomo football will be given a chance to continue building, this new proposal could make establishing a tradition of competitiveness more challenging.

Fredrickson said Santa Ynez stands to benefit from this proposal by saving on travel and student time out of class.

For Albright, games closer to home mean more monetary support and fan support from the community.

Fredrickson and Albright said the athletic directors will continue to hammer out the details over the course of the coming meetings.

“All the athletic directors get along and work well together,” Fredrickson said. “We’d like to be selfish, but we looked at the big picture to do what’s best for everyone.”

“This will only be a four-year cycle; if it’s not working, we can change it,” Albright said, adding that they can change the leagues after two years, but only by unanimous vote.

Although the proposal received a 12-4 vote at the December meeting, the three officials emphasized that nothing is finalized at this point. Another meeting between local athletic directors is scheduled for January; Albright said school principals have to approve the proposal before it’s sent to CIF in May. The proposal can be appealed through October 2013.

“I don’t foresee any changing records,” Albright said. “Teams that are good will continue to be good, and teams trying to improve will still improve.”

Staff Writer Kristina Sewell rarely fumbles the football. Contact her at ksewell@santamariasun.com.