BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
We're only in the third season of the current league structure in Kern County, with the Division I teams aligned in the Southwest Yosemite League and the other Bakersfield schools sorted geographically into two other leagues. Before that, remember, city schools were split into just two leagues, the SWYL and SEYL. But that became unwieldy when Mira Monte and Independence entered the picture, so we had big-time change.
The change didn't stop there. This is the first year that Tehachapi has been in the SEYL, triggering a change in the South Sequoia League (Chavez and Kennedy moved in to replace the Warriors).
This month, news comes down that the wheels are motion for some more significant change. I obtained a copy of the alignment proposal the Central Section will review and vote on over the next few months. There is reason to believe this is going to happen, though the final vote won't be tallied until April.
Here's the proposal, which would take effect for the 2014-15 school year (note that league names are not included outside of the SWYL):
Southwest Yosemite League
The SSL would remain unchanged, as would the rest of the Central Section except for a couple of very minor adjustments (Immanuel goes from independent in football to the Central Sequoia League).
Obviously, the intent here is to even out the leagues in terms of competitive balance. Instead of mixing Garces and Tehachapi in with east-side schools and Ridgeview with south- and west-side schools and watching those schools dominate, they've put all of the D-II type schools together and then left the D-III and D-IV type schools together in the other league.
For the most part, I'm on board with this tier system; it's actually what I thought the proposal would be a few years back when the idea of a "power league" was floated. I do, however, have a couple of issues:
(1) Independence leaves the SWYL, which is probably a good thing for a school that thought it would have a larger enrollment by this time, but without Ridgeview or Garces moving up to replace the Falcons, it leaves the SWYL with just five teams. That means one team will always have a bye while the other two play.
This isn't that big of an issue for most sports — whether you play one game or two games each week is pretty inconsequential — but in football, it's a big deal. One team will have to have a Week 9 and Week 10 bye every year, unless they can schedule a non-league opponent. With the other two city leagues sitting at six teams, that non-league opponent likely will have to come from out of town.
The alternative, having a late bye, causes some very awkward scheduling. For instance, if Frontier had the Week 10 bye this year, the Titans would have had no games for three weeks because they also received a playoff bye. No coach wants that long of a break at a crucial point in the season.
(2) I feel for programs like East boys basketball, Foothill wrestling or Highland girls soccer, which have very strong programs but will now typically face sub-par competition during league play. Of course, that's the situation currently facing most of Garces' and Ridgeview's programs in the SEYL and SYL.
Generally speaking, this would be a good thing for Kern County sports. Having teams of similar ability and playoff division play increases competition and makes all of them better. We'll have to wait to see if it goes through next semester, but if it does, prepare for another shake-up.