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Every hand in the room went up. And just like that, a major reconfiguration of the two largest high school sports leagues in the North Bay took a big step toward final approval. Super league, here we come.

Under discussion for months, the new league configuration affecting members of the Marin-Sonoma-Mendocino Conference in the CIF’s North Coast Section would send Sonoma Valley, Casa Grande and Petaluma to a league with American Canyon, Justin-Siena, Napa and Vintage.

The following schools would be combined into what is being dubbed a “super league” — Analy, Cardinal Newman, El Molino, Elsie Allen, Healdsburg, Maria Carrillo, Montgomery, Piner, Rancho Cotate, Santa Rosa, Ukiah and Windsor. The Marin County Athletic League, now minus Justin-Siena, would otherwise remain untouched.

Got it?

Despite the unanimous vote at Tuesday’s conference meeting at Cardinal Newman High School (Elsie Allen did not have a representative there), the plan still needs to get through an NCS alignment committee vote Thursday and a final stamp of approval from the NCS Board of Managers on Oct. 3. Any changes will take effect in the fall of 2018.

But wait, there’s more.

The super league (neither of the two new leagues have been named yet) would work like this: The 12 schools would be divided into two divisions on a sport-by-sport basis. The top tier would include the most competitive squads, while the second tier could win their way into the upper echelon by compiling winning seasons.

Under the plan, the divisions would stay in place for two years at a time, whereupon league officials would re-examine the configurations and make adjustments as necessary.

That portion of the plan had some folks talking Tuesday afternoon. Will the division selections be based solely on merit or will sporting politics take hold? But concerns aside, there are a lot of positives to the two-division structure.

A team like Santa Rosa’s track and field squad could compete in the A division, while the Panthers baseball team could play in the B division, build up confidence and hopefully, wins.

That was a theme throughout the process — kids want to be competitive. Blowouts don’t help anyone.

And a two-division system infuses importance into every game, because teams presumably will be fighting either for promotion or to avoid relegation down to the very last game of the season.

But at least one person at Tuesday’s meeting raised the specter of false accolades: Would teams really want to win a “B Division” pennant?

That wasn’t the only concern floated in this process.

In the other “new” league, Sonoma Valley principal Kathleen Hawing again pushed for a way for teams — namely the Dragons’ football squad — to be given permission to play teams more competitively compatible, even if they are outside of the new league.

“We do have issues and concerns around football and safety,” she said.

The Dragons finished 2-4 in the Sonoma County League last fall with wins against Elsie Allen and Piner, two teams which will move to the super league. The Dragons lost 21-0 to Petaluma, a team that will remain a league partner under the new configuration.

Hawing cast an affirmative vote Tuesday but did so with the proviso that NCS officials meeting Thursday consider allowing schools to negotiate their own schedules if they feel certain squads cannot compete in the new arrangement.

“I just need to keep bringing that to the forefront,” she said. “I think it continues to be an issue.”

The alignment committee is slated to consider that arrangement in a separate discussion Thursday, according to NCS Commissioner Gil Lemmon.

Schools can start those discussions, he said, but the section would have to formally approve such a move. So while much of this looks simple on paper, it’s clearly not.

There will be ongoing tinkering and negotiations, which raised yet another issue. Are these movable pieces a good idea in theory but unwieldy in real life? The role of school athletic directors is burdensome as it is, so adding another layer of scheduling and ranking might send some of these folks over the edge.

But fear not. Whatever section officials decide to do, we’ll all be at this again soon enough.

This, after all, was an off-year adjustment. When the three Napa County schools were accepted into the NCS in April, it set off an accelerated process to reconfigure existing leagues to accommodate them.

This whole thing will be re-examined starting next spring when the traditional re-alignment cycle begins anew.

Those decisions will affect teams and schools beginning in 2020.

This process felt, at times, like a test run.

That’s OK, according to Ukiah High principal Gordon Oslund.

Oslund has long pushed for a more comprehensive list of metrics used to determine a school’s competitive ranking. Sure, it may complicate things, but it might help assure a more equitable structure, he said.

“I think the real work is in the next two years,” he said.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes and SoundCloud “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”

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