From the moment three Napa County high schools were formally accepted into the North Coast Section in April, it was clear the family trees of the North Bay, Sonoma County and Marin County leagues would be shaken up.
The shaking has begun. And the fruit is beginning to fall.
At the realignment workshop Monday involving principals, athletic directors and some coaches from all 28 schools affected by any league reconfiguration, there was a feeling of watching the sausage being made. And this meeting was just a workshop to test the waters on various proposals before a vote in August sends the top choice to the NCS Alignment Committee and then the Board of Managers.
But the occasional flying spark Monday points to the import of any decision.
Sports matter. Winning records matter. Those pennants in the gym? They matter and not just in ways we like to espouse like teamwork, camaraderie and work ethic.
Sports also matter because school choice has made students and their parents consumers. Families shop for the right school, the right fit. And for many families, sports programs are instrumental in where they decide to go.
Get dropped into a less-competitive league or with a program that doesn’t stand out in the postseason, and a school’s enrollment can start to slide.
The last time leagues were realigned around here was in 2012, when Windsor and Casa Grande joined the NBL and Piner and Elsie Allen moved to the SCL. Those were minor tweaks compared to what is being considered now.
Sixteen proposals were considered Monday, including one that was created on the spot as a sort of hybrid between other plans. Dubbed “Ukiah 1,” the hybrid got the most support by far and will be one of three plans that this same group will consider in August.
Now, there is much to like in Ukiah 1 (so named because it was floated by Wildcats principal Gordon Oslund), but there are clear winners and losers in the proposal.
Losers? To some extent, Casa Grande, Petaluma and Sonoma Valley get the short end of this deal for reasons that all point to geographic proximity. Sonoma County’s southernmost schools would join newbies American Canyon, Napa and Vintage, along with Justin-Siena — the school that emerged from Monday’s meeting as the long-distance stepchild that the MCAL never wanted.
In five of the six proposals put forth by NCS Monday, Justin-Siena was removed from the MCAL while the rest of the league remained untouched. In the 10 proposals floated by member schools (none from MCAL), six plans called for the removal of Justin-Siena only and four involved deeper tinkering.
“None of the proposals on the table are affecting MCAL, but they are affecting us,” Ukiah’s Oslund said.
Not quite. Moving Justin-Siena out of the MCAL will reduce the average mileage that Marin schools have to travel for competition from 16 miles to 10. Win for MCAL.
Don’t think it all didn’t ruffle some feathers Monday.
So let’s leave MCAL out of the discussion for now, because for all intents and purposes they seem to be out of the discussion.
The frontrunning plan calls for three leagues: the new southern Sonoma/Napa league, the MCAL and essentially a combination of the remaining SCL and NBL schools — which would create what was called on Monday a “super league.”