A conversation with the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section commissioner

Calaveras Enterprise Sports Editor Guy Dossi spoke with Assistant Commissioner of the Sac-Joaquin Section Will DeBoard Monday afternoon. The two spoke of how the recent rain has caused issues with the softball and baseball playoffs, along with private schools and playing soccer in the winter.

Guy Dossi: I shouldn’t be surprised that rain has been a factor in the baseball and softball playoffs, as it seemed like it rained the entire season. But, how much more difficult does it make things for you when you have scheduled playoff games rained out and you have to get all those games played as soon as possible?

Will DeBoard: The good and bad thing about being a sports administrator is that sporting events never go on exactly as planned. You always have to scramble and when something doesn’t go right, you have to figure out a way to make sure it goes well. A lot of times, behind the scenes things seem awfully messy, and our goal is to make sure that people who are watching the events or are involved with the events don’t really see the messiness that goes on.

That being said, baseball and softball this year have been well above and beyond anything that we’ve ever experienced when it comes to the weather. Right now, we’ve had a total of eight potential days to play baseball and softball, and we’ve had six of them partially or fully rained out. We are supposed to have 49 games at Arnaiz Softball Complex, and we’ve played a total of 12.

We always have plans and the way our schedules are built, especially for baseball and softball where you can’t play in the rain, you always have extra days built in to count for the rainy day. It’s tough to plan for six or seven rainy days in an eight-day stretch. At this point, we are looking at all possibilities; from running softball into next week, to even potentially shifting gears completely and going to a single-elimination format.

GD: I know a lot of coaches really like that double-elimination format and I can imagine that wouldn’t be the most popular decision to make.

WD: I’ve been at the section office for 10 years and I learned really early that any decision you make, it will make some people happy and some people unhappy, and the ones that are unhappy, we’ll hear about it right away. I’m sure that if we went down that road, we’d get some complaints about it. At this point, there might be some coaches who say, “You know what? Every other sport is single elimination, so maybe we should be, too.”

We are one of the few sections in the state that does a double-elimination format for baseball and softball. I’m not saying that we are definitely going that way, but it’s something that we talk about. We talk about a lot of things that don’t actually happen, but you want to have all possibilities in mind when you talk things out.

GD: Playoff seeding is something that everyone debates. What goes into placing a team in a certain spot, and do coaches ever give you their thoughts on where their team should be placed once the playoffs begin?

WD: We have a seeding committee. It’s six former coaches and athletic directors who used to be coaches and we use them for pretty much every sport. We give them as much information as we possibly can without overloading them.

We try to take a global view. We look at records, strength of schedule, the strength of their league and where they finished in their league. We definitely look at head-to-head. I will tell you that as far as head-to-head goes, a head-to-head win in football carries a lot more weight than a head-to-head win in baseball, where pitching matchups can be a factor. But, in every other sport, head-to-head plays a large role.

People will call me in advance wondering where they’ll be seeded and I honestly have no idea. With all the information that we put together to give to our committee, I can usually tell what range they’ll be in.

The people who call, they know their team and generally speaking, they believe their team is a little better than maybe their resume says. So, those aren’t always great calls when you have to tell someone that there are probably five or six teams that are probably a little stronger. All we can do is be honest and give them a decent idea where they are going to end up.

The great thing about our playoffs is that it all gets decided on the field of play. If you are a six-seed and you don’t feel you are a six-seed, then go out there and beat a three-seed and prove us wrong. It’s happened before and it’ll happen again and that’s the great thing about sports.

GD: When it comes to the playoffs, a lot of people don’t like it when private schools play public schools. I remember a few years ago when Summerville had a great football team, but lost to Central Catholic in the playoffs three years in a row. Why do public and private schools face one another?

WD: There are some states in the United States that do separate public from private schools, most notably is Texas. We have one CIF (California Interscholastic League), who governs all high school sports. In Texas, they have the UIL (University Interscholastic League), which covers all public schools and TAPPS (Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools) covers the private schools and they don’t play each other.

Good or bad, right or wrong, our state has always governed all high school sports. We look at enrollment as a way to determine what division you are in.

What’s really tough is when private schools have nice facilities; they generally have a lot of kids who go out for sports. An enrollment of 300 at Central Catholic is sometimes a lot different than an enrollment of 450 at Summerville.

That being said, we have to write rules that cover every single one of our schools, both public and private. What we have done in the last several years is that we’ve put in a lot of rules that are designed to take teams that compete very well and move them up through the ladder very fast. We have designated divisions for each of our leagues. We’ve taken Central Catholic, who for many years was in the Southern League in division VI, and we moved them up and they are now in the Valley Oak League, which is a division III league. So, because they are in a division III league, they can only go one league lower than the division they are in, which is D4.

We’ve also put in continued success rules that say if you win three championships in a row at a certain division, you move up the following year. If you happen to win three in a row and move up and win the next one, you move up again, which is exactly what Central Catholic has done … When it comes to football, we don’t have a lot of private schools winning section championships.

When Central Catholic was in division IV and V, they were definitely winning. In D2, they haven’t won one yet. We’ve actually had a lot of public schools have success in football, while basketball is a different story. When one or two kids join a football team, it can improve the team. When one or two kids transfer onto a basketball team, your team can go from .500 to a league or section champ.

GD: I know I wasn’t a huge fan of moving soccer to the winter and I’m wondering if I’m alone in that.

WD: Honestly, it hasn’t been great. We’ve had one fairly dry winter and nobody complained, and we’ve had two wet winters with soccer and everybody has complained. This is something that didn’t come out of our office.

We are a federation and every one of our rules comes from the bottom up. It’s proposed by a school and is brought to their league; their league brings it to our board and our board votes on it. The proposal to move soccer to the winter has been a proposal brought forth to our board a few times and it was voted down until four or five years ago when they approved it.

From a financial standpoint, it probably hasn’t been good for schools and, to be honest, it hasn’t been good for the section either. The vast majority of our money comes from playoff gates and the winter soccer attendance is not nearly on the level of what it was when it was boys in the fall and girls in the spring.

Most people don’t view the movement of soccer to the winter as a great thing, but there certainly are some advantages to it. It gives winter another sport for both genders to play, and it evens the calendar out a little bit. This is something that schools voted on and honestly, if they wanted to change it back, they totally could. It falls 100 percent on them.

The last few times we’ve had a vote to move soccer to the winter, the Mother Lode League has voted for it. We do hear a lot of complaints about soccer in the winter and I can’t tell if it’s a vocal minority or if it’s the true majority. I will tell you, the last couple of times schools have voted on it, it was a 70-30 split to play soccer in the winter.

GD: With the school year coming to an end, will you get to take some time off and not think about high school sports for a while?

WD: Our season ends next Monday, if all things go according to plan with our baseball championships. I will definitely take some decompression time.

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