Scheduling puzzle pieces continued to move Wednesday as North Coast Section officials postponed and rescheduled the Division 2 water polo championship game to Thursday just after creating a backup plan for football and tennis brackets if air quality woes continue to force the postponement of games.
Smoky skies and unhealthy air quality from the deadly fire in Butte County have wreaked havoc on postseason sports schedules, with games being continually pushed deeper into the traditional playoff calendar.
In a special meeting convened by teleconference Wednesday, NCS executive committee members voted on a plan that would determine which teams advance to the NorCal playoffs should NCS competition become impossible to complete in current air quality conditions and time constraints.
Officials voted 7-0 to declare no section champions in football, tennis or water polo if championship games cannot be played. In a second vote, the committee agreed to use head-to-head records to determine which team advances to the NorCal playoffs if a section championship game cannot be played. If the two teams have not played each other or if they have split their games evenly, a coin flip will determine which squad advances.
That scenario should not affect the Division 2 championship water polo game Thursday between No. 3 seed Cardinal Newman and No. 4 seed Terra Linda after the game was moved to Berkeley High School’s indoor facility. The game is slated to begin at 4:45 p.m.
The ripple effect from schedule changes and delays to competition is now affecting the state calendar. CIF officials announced Tuesday that the NorCal water polo championships will now be played Friday and Saturday. The state football championship was also pushed back, to Dec. 14-15.
The contingency plan for football agreed to Wednesday has the potential to affect a number of Redwood Empire teams still in the playoff hunt.
Graham Rutherford, dean of student life at Cardinal Newman, and the Cardinals’ football coach, Paul Cronin, as well as Rancho Cotate assistant principal Henri Sarlatte, called into the special teleconference meeting to support a proposal that would have allowed the team with the higher seed to automatically advance to NorCals if a championship game cannot be played. Kelseyville football coach Erick Larsen also called in to support that proposal.
All three teams are the top seed in their respective divisions — Rancho Cotate in Division 2, Cardinal Newman in Division 3 and Kelseyville in Division 5.
Instead, an alternate proposal was floated to give the go-ahead to a team if it has beaten the other in a head-to-head matchup. If the teams have not played each other, a coin flip will decide who advances. That proposal was passed by the executive committee on a 5-2 vote.
Sarlatte argued the rankings made by a seeding committee prior to the playoffs and based on strength of schedule, records and other factors should carry weight if a game cannot be played.
“I think we have NCS (seeding) committees for a reason,” he said.
But he also noted the difficulty of the situation affecting so many schools and communities.
“I would also add it’s a very tough decision,” he said. “I don’t begrudge anyone.”
Rutherford said seeds are based on what teams have done on the field and should be valued.
“Nobody wants to win by coin flip,” Rutherford said.