New format will change the face of CIF playoffs for San Diego schools
by Scott Hopkins
Published - 02/07/13 - 10:39 AM | 9010 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Point Loma High boys’ baseball program will be among the first at the school affected by a new CIF playoff format recently created. Here, Pointer first baseman Jayson Pappas (No. 23) prepares to glove a pickoff attempt from pitcher James Klueber. Photo by Scott Hopkins | The Beacon
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For 52 years, San Diego high schools have been divided into competitive divisions for playoffs, based strictly on campus enrollment.

Those days largely came to an end in January when the local section of the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Board of Managers ap-proved a dramatically different format for seven team sports.

Beginning with some fall sports, a mathematical formula using state rankings, playoff appearances and opponents’ records will be used to assign each school to a division for playoff purposes only.

The formula looks at a school’s performance over the previous five years, placing greater weight on the most recent years.

At the top of each sport will be an “Open Division” composed of the top eight teams in the section in a given sport. All eight will enter the playoffs to determine a champion.

The next four divisions (I, II, III, IV) ranked similarly, will send the top 12 teams into playoff action, while

Div. V will send eight teams.

Open division winners will be designated as section champions, while others will be crowned as division winners.  

The new plan took 18 months to fine-tune and coincides with the hiring of Jerry Schniepp as the section’s fifth commissioner.

“This is the right thing for the section,” Schniepp said later. “I think after the [board] vote, a vast majority see it as a good thing, too.”

PLHS athletic director John Murphy has been an advocate for CIF change.

Murphy and others applied growing pressure to change the section’s playoff format — a move that gathered support over time. Proponents calculated, for instance, that five schools (La Costa Canyon, Torrey Pines, Cathedral Catholic, Coronado and La Jolla Country Day) won 48 percent of the section’s championships last year.

“That’s just crazy,” Murphy said. 

Under the newly adopted plan, baseball programs and boys’ and girls’ lacrosse will begin the new system this spring. Football and girls’ volleyball will join in the fall, with boys’ and girls’ basketball added next winter.

Other team sports (boys’ and girls’ soccer, field hockey and boys’ and girls’ water polo) may be included in the new system in the future if a ranking system can be agreed upon. Until then, these sports will remain in enrollment-driven divisions.

And sports that emphasize individual ability of both boys and girls (cross country, water polo, track and field, golf, tennis, swimming and gymnastics and wrestling) will also remain in divisions based on enrollment.

“This whole thing is great for the best teams to be competing against the best,” Schniepp said. “It’s great for the other teams not in the open division because they will now be competing against programs just like them.”

What does this mean for Point Loma High teams? No sports made the new elite Open Division, but two will compete in Div. I. The breakdown:

Baseball: The Pointers will compete in Div. II (18 teams, 12 advance to playoffs)

Boys’ lacrosse: Div. II (22 teams, 12 advance)

Girls’ lacrosse: Div. II (16 teams, 12 advance).

Football: Div. I (16 teams, 12 advance).

Girls’ volleyball: Div. I (18 teams, 16 advance)

“I don’t see this being a major change for us in football,” said Pointer head coach Mike Hastings. “Many of our previous playoff opponents are in Div. I and there are some new schools like Valhalla, Carlsbad, Vista and San Pasqual.”

For more information, visit the CIF website at
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