Monday, March 08, 2010

EBAL divisional proposal for NCS

The following is a proposal by EBAL coaches (in NCS) in order to have equitable competition at the California State Cross Country Meet. As it stands now, teams in several Northern California sections are competing at the state meet against much larger schools (which is quite an advantage).

NCS divisional restructuring proposal:

D1 = 2400+
D2 = 1900-2399
D3 = 1250-1899
D4 = 500-1249
D5 = 1-499

We propose restructuring the NCS cross country divisions beginning with the fall 2010 season per the attached spreadsheet for a variety of reasons. First, it is important to consider why there are divisional structures in the first place. The idea behind these divisions are, presumably, to facilitate fair competiton. (The rationale behind the division of a section by school size is that bigger schools have a larger pool of students to draw from and therefore have a greater chance of fielding faster teams. Empirically, this is the case. Virtually every year the teams in division 1 are faster on average than the teams in lower divisions. There may be a few teams here and there that buck the trend, but the trend is undeniable.)

So what does this have to do with the NCS? We have equally divided sections to ensure fair competition. As you are aware, each section in the state is free to set divisional cutoffs where they will (except for the top end of D4 and D5). For example, in the southern section--by far, the biggest section in the state--leadership has decided to divide the schools into divisions as evenly as possible as well. So the problem arises when teams from NCS have to compete against teams from other sections where the section leadership has set divisional cutoffs higher than ours--in some cases much higher. When that takes place, many NCS teams are no longer competing against their peers on the proverbial level playing field. For example, 7 teams in NCS division 1 would be D3 schools in the Southern Section.

It is worth considering the pros and cons on this proposition, of course. As we see it, the only drawback--and a temporary one at that--is that NCS Division 3 will grow and some teams in that division will find it somewhat harder to qualify for the state championship. However, this is merely a temporary situation because adjusting our divisional structure to reflect numbers that resemble those in the Southern Section will actually earn NCS more berths in the state meet over time, so that the number of our most competitive teams who have the opportunity to compete at the state meet will actually go up. In addition, greater success at the highest levels of competition will breed a sense of greater pride and excitement in cross country. In turn, this will strengthen the sport in our section. One might point out that other sections have divisional cutoffs that are even lower than ours. In response, we would point out that those divisions are penalizing their athletes just as we are currently penalizing ours. If we were members of those sections, we would be presenting this proposal to our leadership there.

The bottom line is that the current system in unfair to the NCS teams in Division 1 and 2, primarily, who are not competing against their peers. In these cases, the divisional structure is doing the opposite of what is was intended to do; it is making the competition inherently unfair for our athletes. The system isn't fair and we owe it to our athletes to adjust it.

Thanks for your time and attention.

James Logan 4315 9 teams
Berkeley 3418
Deer Valley 3349
Castro Valley 2920
Antioch 2824
San Leandro 2675
Amador Valley 2590
California 2435
Pittsburg 2406
Freedom 2385 20 teams
Granada 2330
Foothill 2298
Monte Vista 2207
Mission SJ 2156
Newark Mem 2155
Heritage 2114
De La Salle* 2102
Livermore 2076
Liberty 2057
College Park 2053
San Ramon 2032
Irvington 2032
Santa Rosa 1998
American 1989
Arroyo 1980
Mt. Eden 1962
Washington 1946
Casa Grande 1909
Alameda 1902
Clayton Valley 1876 28 teams
Windsor 1781
Rancho Cotate 1771
Montgomery 1756
Ukiah 1720
Hayward 1685
Carondelet* 1622
San Lorenzo 1618
Maria Carrillo 1590
Concord 1543
Dougherty Valley 1503
Northgate 1496
Dublin 1490
Redwood 1477
Las Lomas 1456
Tennyson 1450
Eureka 1409
Campo 1408
Petaluma 1385
Acalanes 1368
YV 1365
Alhambra 1349
JFK - Fremont 1337
Novato 1346
Albany 1330
Sonoma 1320
Miramonte 1280
El Cerrito 1257
Piner 1242 20 teams
Encinal 1210
Bishop O'Dowd 1200
Hercules 1196
Tamalpais 1128
Terra Linda 1114
Sir Francis Drake 1056
San Marin 968
San Rafael 934
Moreau 900
Cardinal Newman 892
Arcata 868
El Molino 864
Piedmont 864
Marin Catholic 745
McKinleyville 663
St. Mary's 617
Justin-Sienna 606
St. Pat/St. Vincent 603
Willits 547
Cloverdale 446 22 teams
Berean Christian 441
Lick Wilmerding 440
St. Joseph 417
Marin Academy 403
SF Univ. 389
Upper Lake 385
College Prep 352
Urban School SF 350
Head-Royce 337
Stuart Hall 328
International HS 318
Athenian 300
Bentley 297
South Fork 261
Redwood Christian 253
Chinese Christian 225
Sonoma Academy 212
CA School for the Deaf 186
Rincon Valley Christian 165
Santa Rosa Christian 92
Leadership (Hayward) ?
* M or F only

Divisions for 2009 (as you can see, sections have the ability to determine their own #s)
I 2640+
II 2160 - 2639
III 1251 - 2159
IV 501 - 1250
V 1 - 500

1601 - 2050
1151 - 1600
500 - 1150
1 - 499

1 - 314

1701 - 2190
1126 - 1700
301 - 1125
1 - 300

1564 - 1944
1214 - 1563
501 - 1213
1 - 500

Any thoughts on this proposal? Any other ideas on how we can make the state competition in XC fair? Are you more concerned about doing well in your own section or at the state meet?


Anonymous said...

Only 9 teams in D1? Doesn't seem competitive. Can a D2 or D3 school move up to try and get a state spot?

I'd be mad if I was in a division with 28 teams while another has 9.

Albert Caruana said...

For a few years, teams were allowed to move up divisions in order to give themselves a better chance to qualify for the state meet. That is no longer allowed.

Theoretically, if teams (in Div. II, III and IV) are competing against same sized teams at the state meet, there is a good chance those divisions will gain state meet spots.

As you noted, this would leave 9 teams in division I and the result would be similar in CCS if a similar proposal is to be passed in that section. The 3000+ sized schools that are the norm in the SS are just not that present in the NorCal sections.

Anonymous said...

It is unfortunate that there would be so few DI schools, but if that the only truly DI schools in NCS, than that's all there is, the bottom line is it makes no sense to have schools that would be DIII in SS facing their massive DI schools. We have to look at the state wide competition, even if it means one of the NCS races will become less competitive. I mean do we want NCS to be a competitor at the state level, or do we want the trip to Fresno to just be a little post season vacation?

Anonymous said...

I have a radical thought - -
What if our section teams (NCS, etc) kept competitive and evenly spread divisions based on school size (like those we have now).

Then at the State level the teams were ranked in "heats" based on their team time, like in track.
The fastest teams (regardless of school size) would race the fastest teams. The number of competing teams in each heat/level could be kept even so as not to overload a heat. And you'd have some fiercely competitive races to boot!

I know... this would require a BIG CHANGE at the top State levels, but interesting to consider none the less!


Coach Small said...

I think Fresno, even if you are a smaller school, is never a "vacation." And quite frankly, shame on the person who thinks so. While the team competition is lopsided due to the population differences, my athletes have always performed well at State on an individual level. I am all for making competition fair but some comments I have heard on the issue make it seem that if you don't perform well at state as a team then your experience is a negative one. As a coach and parent I think it is our responsibility to find things to be positive about, individual PR's being the first. Dwelling on things out of our control, like a schools population, can ruin the experience for the athletes and deflate your team’s performance. In my opinion if the coach goes into State with the attitude that it is unfair and all it is only a “vacation,” then it will also be reflected in the athletes and their performance. That is on the coach.

I do think population standards need to be adopted on a State level, but in Division 3, a school that has 1250 competing against one with 1899 (the new proposed NCS Policy) is still unfair. And the smaller school that makes State with 1250 competing against the SS and SDS with 2000+ has a bigger challenge. By increasing the upper population limit per division you are making the disparity between the smaller and larger schools in that division greater. Are we prepared to make the road to state more difficult for those schools with a population at the low end of the division? The same argument that is being used on a State level now will then be at the section level: the smaller schools will be at a disadvantage just to get to State.

Realistically life is unfair, and you will face teams that are stacked. Some schools have tradition, better coaching, a bigger budget, more involved parents…others don’t. We can try to make it as fair as possible but it never will be. All we can do as coaches is help the talent we have reach their full potential. Even if the system is unfair at the State level calling it a “Vacation” because you face a school that has 2000 instead of your 1899 at the section meet is perhaps where the first “fix” that should be addressed.

Evan Smith said...

The state CIF needs to determine the division boundaries. That is the only way to solve the issue. Simply take all 1200 schools in the state and divide by 5. Yes, that will make D1 quite small in the northern sections, and quite big in the SS, but this is the only way to level the playing field at the state meet. NorCal athletes and coaches will soon get used to the idea that D1 almost doesn't even exist for them, will get used to the idea that it is now much harder to win a D2 or D3 section championship (making victory that much sweeter!) and will enjoy the fact that they have a legitimate shot at a state title.

Peter Brewer said...


There are some politics involved here. The first one is that the individual sections enjoy a remarkable level of autonomy, and exercise that traditional independence frequently.

The second is that internally most sections are wedded to the idea that their imperative is to provide competitive equity within the section, not at the state level. Hence, most sections seek to balance divisions within the section, and not to an overall state framework.

The proposal at hand for the NCS wants to take advantage of the first political reality to change the second. If the divisions can be tweaked a bit to match the Southern Section, this would shift the focus on overall internal NCS equity to NCS vs. SS equity.

Clearly this would favor those programs who are gunning for State Meet recognition, and not do much for the rest (especially in the reformatted D-III). And if the Southern Section would change its internal lineup card, then the NCS would have to realign as well to keep up with its premise of equity state-wide.

You are right in that this issue could be moot immediately if the State CIF imposed a clear and inflexible divisional standard line. This would set school population as the only criterion for placement, and not include any other considerations.

My feeling on this is that the Southern Section would continue to grab most of the top spots in most division, and the equity issues would shift to size of sections and not the size of the schools within those sections. That is an entirely different discussion that has been brought up for decades.

Peter Brewer

Coach Small said...

As I said, I am all for State Standards for divisions as Evan has suggested.

And it would work, because D2 and D3 would get more state spots from the southern sections while we would lose the D1 spots.

However, the three to five D1 schools that would have not have a qualifying spot would be competing for what? Would each section be guaranteed a state spot?

Albert Caruana said...

Right now the baseline number for Division I in CCS, NCS and SJS is 2.

I am assuming that would have to change if there is a compete overhaul of what is taking place at the moment.

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