Approval expected for Napa County high schools to join North Coast Section
A Montgomery-Napa rivalry? How about Healdsburg vs. Vintage?
Redwood Empire high school athletic leagues likely will have new configurations next year as three Napa County high schools are seeking to compete closer to home. New competitive rivalries may accompany them.
Napa, Vintage and American Canyon high schools have sought permission from the state high school athletics governing body to move from the Sac-Joaquin Section to the North Coast Section to cut down on travel time and improve their competitive equity.
It’s a move that has encountered little opposition thus far and is expected to be formally approved next week at an NCS board of managers meeting in El Cerrito.
“We anticipate being a member of the North Coast Section very soon,” said Mark Morrison, executive director for secondary education at the Napa Unified School District.
That means the three Napa schools will be placed into the Marin-Sonoma-Mendocino Conference, which comprises the North Bay League, Sonoma County League and the Marin County Athletic League. Sonoma County’s 15 largest high schools are assigned to the NBL and SCL.
Today in Rohnert Park, NBL school principals will meet to discuss the idea and are scheduled to vote whether to send their delegates to the NCS meeting next Tuesday with a vote approving the Napa schools’ entry into the NCS.
Local athletic directors have already signaled their openness to the idea, NBL commissioner Jan Smith Billing said.
“Nothing in athletics is ever static,” she said. “Leagues are in flux very frequently.
“At one point the big rivalry was Santa Rosa-Petaluma … Then they moved on to the SCL and Santa Rosa stayed in the NBL. About five years ago, Piner and Elsie Allen moved to the SCL and we got Windsor and Casa Grande. So you just evolve as the leagues do.”
The criteria for moving, according to the California Interscholastic Federation and the NCS, is competitive equity and geographic proximity.
The Sac-Joaquin Section is the second-largest section in the state, with 26 leagues and 198 schools spread over 14,500 square miles. Its boundaries stretch from Merced in the south, Grass Valley in the north, Napa to the west and the Nevada state line to the east.
Napa County students sometimes must leave school at noon to play games at Central Valley schools and are on the bus three hours en route, taking them out of the classroom for significant lengths of time.
Morrison has requested that all three Napa schools stay in the same league in order to keep their local rivalries.
But that is not assured, nor is it even on the list of criteria used to determine which leagues the schools are assigned, NCS commissioner Gil Lemmon said.
“In fact, even schools being in the same district is not a criteria we can use to align schools,” he said. “We don’t separate by public/private. We don’t have natural or traditional rivalries. Staying together is not a guarantee.”
Justin-Siena High School is in the MCAL. Similarly, Petaluma and Casa Grande are in different leagues.
It might make sense to put two Napa schools into the NBL, which has eight teams now, and one into the SCL, which has seven. The MCAL has 10 schools now.