CIF approves regional football championships

If you were following my Tweets earlier today, you know that the California Interscholastic Federation Federated Council today approved regional football championship games. Here’s my story for tomorrow’s paper.

The California Interscholastic Federation state football championships are expanding again.

The CIF Federated Council voted Friday at its meeting in Milpitas to approve regional football championship games starting in the 2012 season, creating an opportunity for state bowl berths to decided on the field. It also means some schools will play as many as 16 games.

“I’m pleased,” CIF Executive Director Marie Ishida said. “We’ve been working on this for a number of years. With this organization, you just have to move slowly sometimes and let it work itself through the process.”

Regional championships will be conducted in each of the five divisions (Open, I, II, III, IV), with the Northern regional winners advancing to face the Southern regional winners in the state championship bowl games. The regional championships will be played at sites nearest the higher seeded team.

Previously, state bowl teams were selected by the 10 section commissioners, who will now determine the regional matchups.

“The committee realized and I think some of the commissioners realized that there are certain sections and maybe certain parts of our state that may never get the opportunity to be in a bowl game unless they play their way in, simply because of where they are located and who surrounds them,” Ishida said.

The profits from the regional championship games will be shared with the state’s 10 sections. The North Coast Section will receive 8.7 percent of the revenue and the Oakland Section will receive 1.24 percent.

The Federated Council also approved a running clock in the fourth quarter of games if a team leads by 35 or more points, beginning this season. The running clock would be up to the mutual agreement of the coaches for the third quarter if one team leads by 35 or more points at halftime.

The regional championships were the biggest topic of the day. The Oakland Section was one of seven sections to vote in favor of the proposal. Commissioner Michael Moore Sr. cited last year’s 12-0 McClymonds team as an example of a school that might have benefited from the change.

“That was a fantastic team,” Moore said. “There wasn’t an avenue for them to keep playing. I think this remedies that.”

Encinal coach Joe Tenorio, who saw his 2008 team passed over for a bid to the state bowl championship game after going 13-0, praised the decision.

“That’s exciting,” he said. “I think that’s great news.”

The NCS joined the San Diego and Southern sections in opposing the regional championships. NCS commissioner Gil Lemmon said the section did not want to see the regular season shortened by a week.

Currently, there are 11 weeks to play 10 regular-season games, but the added regional game means section playoffs must be completed a week earlier.

Said Lemmon: “We’re going to adjust and put it out to our membership that the calendar is going to change and they’re going to have to decide whether they want to stick to that starting date or go a week earlier.”

Jimmy Durkin

Jimmy Durkin is a sports writer for the Bay Area News Group.