CIF will put open division basketball to a vote

This is fresh from tomorrow’s paper (or tonight’s web site), and I figured I’d post it here as well to generate some discussion. What do you guys think of the possibility of an open division in basketball?

By Jimmy Durkin

Changes could be coming to the California Interscholastic Federation state basketball championships, although executive director Marie Ishida still doesn’t have a solid gauge of how the vote will turn out.

In May, the CIF Federated Council will vote on a proposal to add an open division to the state basketball championships, beginning in the 2012-13 school year.

“We had a commissioners meeting a couple weeks ago and we wanted to get a sense of where they thought their sections were,” Ishida said. “I think it’s a tossup right now.”

The Federated Council, which will vote on the proposal, is primarily composed of representatives from the state’s 10 sections as well as representatives from several allied organizations. The vote will take place at a meeting May 4 in Milpitas.

An open division, used in football since 2008, would create a sixth division that would pluck the top teams from the five enrollment-based divisions to compete for the open championships.

The Northern and Southern regionals would each have up to eight teams per bracket and the CIF would be eligible to select teams that met specific criteria.

“Some teams fear that if they have that once-in-a-lifetime team that they’re going to be selected,” Ishida said. “They won’t necessarily. There’s a set of criteria. You’re going to have to be successful over a period of time in order to be placed into that open division.”

According to Ron Nocetti, theCIF senior director, that criteria includes teams that reach the state finals and return to the regional championships (i.e. NorCal playoffs) the following year, teams that have qualified for the regional championships three of the past four seasons, teams that win back-to-back section championships and teams that finished the season ranked in the Cal-Hi Sports state top 10 for two straight seasons.

Teams would have the option to opt in to the open divisions, but teams that are selected who meet the criteria cannot opt out.

The open division could help solve the long-debated issue of public vs. private schools.

At one time, Division I served as an open division of sorts, with the top teams petitioning up. St. Joseph Notre Dame, despite its small enrollment, won Division I titles in 1991-92 with Jason Kidd.

Since 2004, the CIF hasn’t allowed teams to petition up, and that has led to further domination by private schools. This year, 15 of the 20 teams to reach the state finals were from private schools, and all 10 champions were private.

Salesian boys coach Bill Mellis, fresh off winning the Division IV state title Friday, supports the idea and said his recent teams would’ve played in a higher division if it was possible.

“I think you’re always looking for the next challenge and that would be the next challenge for us,” Mellis said.

Mellis thinks an open division would provide not only fun basketball, but help quiet some of the grumblings of private school advantages.

“I think it helps kind of diffuse the debate a little bit,” he said. “Private schools do in a lot of ways have an advantage. Not just being able to draw from a larger area but financially. I think (an open division) would be great.”

An open division NorCal boys bracket this year would’ve likely included Salesian, Division II state champion Archbishop Mitty, De La Salle and Sheldon, the Division I NorCal champion.

A girls bracket would’ve likely included teams such as Division III state champion Bishop O’Dowd and powerhouses St. Mary’s-Stockton and Berkeley.

“It would give the opportunity for the best teams to play regardless of size,” Mellis said.

Jimmy Durkin

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

  • Gauntlet


  • Prep Fan

    I would love to see NCS playoffs with teams such as DLS, Salesian, BOD, Newark, St. Joes, Deer Valley, Freedom, Castro Valley, San Leandro, Liberty, El Cerrito, etc. all in the same division. That would be must see hoops.

    Throwing the Mitty, SHC, Sheldon, Sacto, Serra, Jesuit, Bellarmine type teams with the NCS top teams into the same NorCal pool would be just incredible. That’s how it used to be back in the day, before all these divisions split up all the top teams from playing each other.

  • Prep Fan,
    The open division wouldn’t be until NorCals, so we won’t see all those teams together in NCS. I agree that would be fun, but I like this idea too.

    Thinking about this year, with the top 8 teams pulled into an open division, it would’ve created an opportunity in Div. I for teams like Deer Valley to possibly reach a state title game and same for El Cerrito in Div. III. What I like about that is it gives more opportunities to those very good teams like DV, Freedom, CV, SL, etc. in their divisions and then it allows the elite teams like Salesian and Mitty the opportunity to tackle the next challenge.

  • hoops

    As I posted somewhere else,they use to let the strong programs petition up so teams like Salesian and ODowd could play D1 ALL the way including NCS.That is the fairest system and I do not know why they changed it.The catholic schools have dominated everything since St.Joes went down to 5,Sal and SM 4,ODowd 3,etc.The Best system is to let a school petition up in a sport if they have a strong program but make them stay at that level for a minimum 3 years so coaches don’t just move up to avoid playing a strong team in their natural division.Probably the best system would be you can only move up to D1.You cannot go from D3 to D2 for example like schools use to do.

  • Intheknow


    Who does this really benifit? How does St. Joe’s benefit from this open division. The would never win it and they would be competing against schools that have 6times their student population.

    It would help publics with good teams every couple of years, but publics with good programs would almost never win it.

    A better idea would be to keep the current enrollment based division but award a public school and private school regional and state champion for each division. that would fix all the issues with the current system.

    All this open division does is the exact same thing to the privates/catholics that the current system does to the publics…how fair is that?.

  • I flat out don’t like the idea of separating public and private schools into different championships. First off, it’s not realistic, especially not to have one in each division. DLS is the only Div. 1 private, for example. But also, some public schools compete with privates just fine such as Newark Memorial, Sheldon, Castro Valley and Mack. Those teams wouldn’t want to win a public school championship without getting to play the top teams. And you can’t have 20 state championship games either.

    Who this benefits is your top 1 percent of teams. Teams like Salesian, Mitty, De La Salle, etc. Those are the teams that will be in the open. I don’t think a school like St. Joe’s would be selected to the open division. They aren’t a team that’s up there in the state rankings. Yes, they would meet the criteria and be eligible, but I wouldn’t imagine in most years that St. Joe’s would be the type of team to get selected to the open. In the Jason Kidd days, yes, but not now. Not unless they get to the point of beating bigger schools/programs. The difference between them and Salesian is that St. Joe’s wins a lot of games against the smaller schools. Salesian beats up on the smaller schools as well as the bigger schools.

    The section commissioners will be the ones selecting which teams go to the open division, so those commissioners will have an idea of which teams would like to compete in the open. I don’t think we’ll have many circumstances of teams that have no business being in the open getting selected.

    Plus, it’s only 4-8 teams that will go open. Eight is the max and the CIF feels like they should be able to get at least 4-6 in there. The main purpose will be taking only those elite teams and putting them together to compete for a state title, with the side benefit being possibly opening up more possibilities for the publics. I think it’s a win-win. There will still be enough quality teams to go around in the other divisions that winning those titles won’t be watered down that much and we’ll have the chance to see the top flight matchups that would be fun to watch.

    Imagine an Open this year would’ve been 1, Salesian 2, De La Salle 3, Mitty and 4, Sheldon. We could’ve had a Salesian or Mitty vs. Mater Dei matchup in the state finals. Matchups like that would make a California open division title game have national interest.

    As for the old set up when teams were allowed to petition up, I don’t know why they ditched it and wish they hadn’t. I liked that as well. However, the flaw there was that teams had to petition up on their own. They couldn’t be forced up. This set up would force a team up if it met the criteria and had the type of team that should be playing in the open.

  • Oh boy

    I love the idea Jimmy. And public/private playoffs would water down both title teams claim at superiority.

    I liked the old system because large schools have no business moving down and should have to compete with the best to win. But an Open would allow the best to go at it without beating up D1 schools with low basketball ambitions. Mack (public school btw) has 200 students and got to compete D1 while Salesian and Mitty could not. Lastly, St Joes can play with the big boys. The only CA teams to beat Salesian in the last 2 years are Windward in last years state game and…..St. Joes. Go figure

  • I think St. Joe’s needs to play more big boys to show if they can play with the big boys. They did beat Salesian last year, but that came on a tiny court. Salesian’s a different team on a big court. And it’s easier to get jacked up for one game than play a gauntlet of big boys in a playoff. But if this passes and St. Joe’s envisions itself as an open division type team, I’d imagine Lippi would ramp up the schedule. Lately, they’ve played a lot of the Division V teams they would expect to see in the postseason. So if Lippi expected St. Joe’s to be in the open, I’m guessing he’d play those types of teams. They have been playing Serra and Monte Vista, but they would need some more of those types of games and some even tougher ones. Personally, I’d love to see a revival of the St. Joe’s-O’Dowd rivalry. I went to every St. Joe’s-O’Dowd game there was during Jason Kidd’s years. Those are still the best basketball games I’ve ever been too.

  • Gdog


    I think you have it completely backward as to who would benefit. I don’t think it is the 1% but rather the other 99% and SoCal that would benefit. Take this year for example and let’s just for arguments sake assume Mitty wins the NorCal Open. That puts say Sacred Heart Prep in the DIV, Jesuit DI and Newark or Serra in DII. Newark might be forced to play up. The South has so many teams it is silly the top 4 in DIV for example were all about the same, Price just happened to win. There were at lest 5 teams just a notch below Mater Dei in DI. So using that scenario NorCal would be very weak in representation compared to the South. It would allow about 3-4 NorCal teams to win Regional Championships that otherwise would potentially either lost or been only finalists. One other note let’s think about 2011. Would DLS have been moved to Open? Most likely not having lost Section by 20 pts to Castro Valley and having 5 losses. But they were within 1 possesion of Mater Dei with less than a minute to play in the DI game. Personally I think it is a fine idea but really will only help the South and a couple teams a year. The Open Game itself would be a great game but would see blowouts at many of the other State Game levels because of it however. If St. Joe’s was so confident they could play with the big boys then their schedule would relect it, it doesn’t, and I’m talking National Level Schedule like the real big boy play.

  • Intheknow


    this is what im saying:

    What if “1. Salesian 2, De La Salle 3, Mitty and 4, Sheldon. are in the open division……. Jesuit still makes the final and probably wins in D-1. Newark win D-2 easily, BOD still wins D-3. Newman, Marin Catholic, or St. Pats wins D-4, and St. Joes (who meets all the criteria for open) wins D-5. How is that different than what went on now?

    All im saying is If you say this is the criteria and list it, and you cant opt out of the open if you get selected then St. Joes (who got to 2 states in 2 years and 4 in last 7 years) would have to go…….. They cant opt out and would never win a open State title.

    I really think that people who think that Privates dominate sports are behind this push. You can get basically the top 3 or possible 4 privates out of regular divisions by doing the open division, but I think all you do is open it up for other privates to slide right in place….

    So quite possible you could have this year lets say:

    Nor Cal Representatives
    Open Salesian
    D-1 – Jesuit
    D-2- Newark
    D-3- BOD
    D-4- Some other catholic school i mentioned from above (prob. St. Pats)
    D-5- St. Joes (or Branson- private)

    And so cal will look really similar. I really personally think that what we think is the answer in the short term for private domination will only lead to more privates taking more titles.

  • Prep Fan

    How is that different? If “1. Salesian 2, De La Salle 3, Mitty and 4, Sheldon are in the open division”, then we would get to see some great basketball teams face off against each other in elimination games. As it stands right now, those teams were in 3 different divisions. I’m all for it as a basketball fan. Too many divisions nowadays, and that takes away some really great games.

  • Gdog,
    I agree it helps out the other 99 percent. I think it helps the 1 percent too. Teams like Salesian that want to play better competition get that opportunity. I personally think it helps everybody. I do agree it also helps SoCal, which has more depth. The amount of titles won by NorCal would greatly decrease.

    And Intheknow, I only went four teams deep in my hypothetical here. What I posted on Twitter (and now realize I didn’t post here) is that I figure the 8 team bracket would be filled out by Jesuit, Newark, Sacred Heart Cathedral and O’Dowd. That opens up D-1 to teams like Deer Valley, Mack, Castro Valley, Freedom. D-2 is opened up to teams like Las Lomas in 2011, D-3 is there for teams like Campo, El Cerrito, etc.

    As Gdog points out, that waters down those divisions for NorCal (whereas SoCal would still have the depth to bring a great team). But it does create opportunity for more teams and allows for a great NorCal open division tournament.

    Like I’ve said, I like it. I know Salesian likes it. As we get closer to the vote, I plan to talk to more coaches to gather their opinion. Obviously, there’s different opinions here and that’s great. It helps lead to discussion. The fact is, there’s been no talk of switching back to the pre-2004 days of letting teams petition up, so it’s a waste to wish for it to go back to that setup. This is the proposal that’s in place and I think it’s better than what we have now.

  • hoops

    I like the open idea the more I think about it.The really good teams should want it because it is kind of a hollow victory for a team like Salesian who knows they have the best players to play D4.Can you imagine how unhappy Jason Kidd would have been playing D5??The best example next year would be ODowds girls.What a difference for them if they play in an open format instead of sleepwalking thru D3.

  • Intheknow


    I don’t want to sound like a hater but tell me again; Which private schools does this format HELP?

    Would SHC really want to be in an open division….. especially this past year?

    Why not Mack in the open? They have wont the OAL section enough to be put in there.

    Overall its helps, DLS-Salesian-Mitty-Sheldon-Jesuit and a few others who want to play better compietion that not found on their divisional level.

    And it hurts, SHC-BOD-St. Joes- Crondelet- St. Mary’s (G),and a host of other teams would would be forced to play in the open but probably cant win it, but have a chance to win their enrollment size division.

    I guess all im saying is since you cant opt out, there will always be a few privates/publics that have good teams but not great enough to win an open division. (SHP, St. Joes, Mack) so instead of these teams possible winning state at their enrollment size they definitely loose in the open division…..they could barley win their own division.

  • Prep Fan

    It is all semantics when you are asking who it helps. Does it help certain teams play better competition? Definitely. Does it help certain teams chances on winning a NorCal title or state championship? Yes, if that is what you want. I just think there are too many divisions as it is now, and the top teams don’t play each other as much as they should. Whether that helps certain teams chances on winning D1,D2,D3,D4,D5 or D6 championships is secondary to me. I don’t care if everyone gets a trophy, I just want to see some great competition.

  • Intheknow

    Prep Fan,

    I totally agree with you. The better teams should play each other. Thats what the pre-season and classic games are for. Go out and schedule the best teams you can if thats what you want, but you shouldn’t be forced to play “up a division” in the post season. Thats all Im saying…

  • renegades10

    I really don’t like the idea of an open basketball division. Sure it will be fun to watch the Open bracket but it diminishes the other titles big time imo.

  • hoops

    Look at it another way.Young people are taught to strive to be the best they can be.Any competitive athlete wants to compete against the best.The open division would be for the truly strongest programs proven over time.There is no way Salesians boys or ODowds girls are going to walk away feeling satisfied winning against weak teams next year.Life is about competing against the best not going thru the motions because you have such a ridiculous advantage in talent.Maybe Salesian loses in the open but another school that is a real D4 level team wins a state title because Salesian was playing up where they should be.

  • Prep Fan

    R10 – In boys hoops this year, everyone knew prior to the season who the 5 NCS champs would be: DLS, Newark, BOD, Salesian & St. Joes. Sure enough, those 5 ended up winning their respective divisions. Is it that important to these schools that they each be awarded NCS division titles, or would they rather play against like competition and challenge themselves? I would love to see those 5 teams duke it out amongst themselves on the court. The way it is now, aside from Salesian and St. Joes being in the same league, we just have to wonder who the best teams really are.

  • Prep Fan

    I know Jimmy said the upcoming vote is just for the state playoffs, but it would sure make the NCS playoffs a lot more interesting if there was actual competition in each division.

  • Intheknow, as I’ve said, eight is the maximum amount of teams. I get the impression that they don’t HAVE to fill the eight team bracket. Since the section commissioners will choose, they’ll have an idea of which of their teams feel like they should got to the open division. I think more often than not, teams that get selected to the open will be teams that want to be there.

    Don’t get so caught up on the teams that I suggested would’ve gone there this year. I’m not saying they definitely would’ve, those are just the teams I would’ve picked. But they might’ve chosen other teams or fewer teams. Also, the reason I didn’t put Mack in there is this year was there first Oakland Section title since 2009. Technically, they would’ve met the criteria by reaching NorCals three of the last four years, but I think this year’s team would’ve been a better fit not in the open. They are just two years removed from a below .500 season.

  • Agreed Prep Fan. Like you said, the six section champions (including Mack in the Oakland Section) were predictable from Day 1. I guess maybe some could consider keeping NCS playoffs the same as a compromise since teams would still have a good shot to win a section title, even if winning a NorCal or state title would be a tougher accomplishment.

    Also, speaking again today with Mellis, one drawback we came up with is that the Open Division teams wouldn’t know they are going Open until after the section playoffs. That would make scouting tough. If a team was a bubble team for the Open, they wouldn’t know if they need to scout their own division or the expected Open Division teams. Despite that, Mellis believes the benefits outweigh the negatives.

    One thing I would love to see with a potential NorCal regional is to have some double headers for the first two rounds, say at SMC or something. Using the suggested seeds I would’ve had for an open this year, say we had 1) Salesian vs. 8 ) O’Dowd and 2) DLS vs. 7) SHC in a double header at SMC. How many people would that draw?

  • GHN

    Lets just forget about the open division and play each other in the pre season and more importantly PLEASE go back to 8 teams from each division for ncs and PLEASE ONLY the top two teams make it to nor cal it is very watered down now and is becoming a big joke to make it to nor cal and ncs

  • Prep Fan

    Looking at the prior NCS brackets, there were only 3 divisions an only 8 teams from each division who made it to NCS, for a total of 24 teams for the first 10 years 1975-1984. In the large division (AAA), only the winners of each league made the playoffs (ACAL, DVAL, MCAL, FAL, CAL, MVAL, EBAL & HAAL).


    They just have champions listed and no brackets from 1985 to 2002, but in 2003 the field had expanded to 5 divisions and 12 teams from each division for a total of 60 teams.

    Division 6 was added in 2009 and the field was expanded in 2010 to up to 16 teams. So if enough teams qualified, there could possibly be 96 teams that make NCS in the various divisions.

    Somewhere along the line, we went from the best teams playing each other to everyone making the playoffs and getting trophies.

  • It’s not as simple as saying just play those games in the preseason. It takes two teams agreeing to schedule a game. I know there are some teams out there Salesian would love to play, but hasn’t been able to get on the schedule.

  • hoops

    Back in the old days when we still had the CAL….,ODowd,DLS,Sal,St,Marys,St.Joes,Moreau and St.Eliz were all in the same league.The CAL playoffs were awesome.The regular season champ had to be beaten twice in the league 1 thru 4 playoffs.The only team that moved on was the playoff champion.The CAL playoffs played up at Cal State Hay were intense and way better than any NCS watered down junk we have today.Can you imagine in todays world only one of the above teams even qualifying for NCS.

  • GHN

    agreed prep fan it is a joke now a days everyone gets into ncs and even more of a joke is getting to nor cal

  • EB JC Guy

    For all those who say getting to NCS or NorCal is a joke, have you talked to players or coaches who work to get there each year? Coaches who use it as motivation for their program that may be on the cusp of getting there? This is high school – if it creates a great experience for the athletes, why knock it? Yes, it may be a bit watered down, but who cares if the athletes enjoy the process and get to compete hard? What’s wrong with an extra round of competition? And any upsets which occur only validate the process (see Heritage girls taking apart Oak Tech, for example). Just saying . . .

  • hoops

    EB JC…..I understand your point and the way the system is now it would almost be better to just let everyone in NCS in that has a winning record.It really bugs me now when I hear coaches crying because their team that was 15-13 got passed over by the selection committee for a team that was 16-14.I apologize if I am wrong about the criteria to get in NCS now,it has been a while since I was involved in it.

  • Prep Fan

    I’m all for the teams that work hard to succeed be rewarded, but I just want to see the best teams play each other. Having DLS, Newark, BOD, Salesian and St. Joe’s in different divisions is not going to get the best teams playing each other.