Corey Costelloe mug

Corey Costelloe

When it comes to policy, not much good normally comes out of the Bay Area; those of us who have lived in this state long enough understand that. However, I’m never one for shorting credit where credit it due, and for the first time in recent memory, the Bay Area might be on to something.

It makes me feel better to credit a group of football coaches who represent public schools that are long tired of having to deal with both their parochial counterparts and upstart charter schools tipping the playing field in one direction. It sparked a proposal that I think could work statewide.

The North Coast Section of the California Interscholastic Federation met last week, and although this item wasn’t on the agenda for action, a pair of public school coaches proposed moving what they termed as “choice” schools (private and charter) into their own divisions for their CIF playoffs.

This would open the door for other schools in their section to potentially qualify for a State Bowl game without having to go through national powerhouses like Concorde De La Salle. The other “compulsory” (their term for public schools) would then be sorted out in the other five divisions sponsored by the North Coast Section.

I can’t say I don’t disagree with this proposal, I’m more confused by the terminology. I think it’s time we start calling these “choice” schools what they are: advantaged. I’m not using that in a negative connotation, either, but in the world of high school sports those of us who have suffered through battles with private schools have known for too long that the playing field is far from level.

While “recruiting” isn’t allowed in any CIF school, it’s almost tongue-and-cheek laughable when we hear that it isn’t being done. It’s as old as many of these institutions themselves. With larger-than-life budgets, advertising campaigns, the ability to bring top players and even coaches from other top-institutions to coach their programs, it’s an advantage nobody in the public school system has an answer for on a comparative basis.

With the advent of charter schools and the expansion of their athletic offerings from year to year, the ability for an athlete to enroll at a private or charter school without moving, pretending to move or coming up with a CIF-acceptable reason to transfer makes the private/charter-school talent pool limitless. The rest of us must adhere to boundaries and rules that simply don’t apply to all.

While the Central Section doesn’t have the number of schools, “choice” or otherwise, that the North Coast section does, I believe this is something that should be explored locally. The Central Section has 16 private or charter schools competing. While some are either not playing football or playing an 8-man game, for the sake of argument let’s whittle that number down to 10. As far as I’m concerned, that’s plenty to put into their own division come CIF playoffs for any sport.

Last season three of the six Central Section football championships were won by private schools: two of the five boys basketball championships, and one of the five girls titles were won by “choice” institutions. I’m sure it’s around the same 40 percent to 50 percent scale among other sports as well. It looks like they’d benefit from slugging it out with one another.

So, when it comes time to realign the divisions after next season in the Central Section, I think it might make some sense and listen to the proposal from our friends up north. While they haven’t adopted this model, it’s a step in the right direction and a road map for teams that are trying to provide the pure high school athletics experience while properly aligning those that are spending like a college program and fishing out of a talent pool that simply isn’t available to the rest of us.

Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides in Tehachapi. He can be reached at corey.costelloe@gmail.com. The opinions expressed are his own.