Local high school football fans should be extra excited about the 2016 season simply because of the new CIF Southern Section competitive equity playoff system.
Under the leadership of CIF-SS commissioner Rob Wigod, all CIF-SS sports will be redivisioned this year based on the new model, which measures performance over the previous two seasons as its placement criteria rather than enrollment size or league placement.
"The (playoff equity) might be the most significant thing that's happened to this organization," Wigod said of the new system that will create more comparable playoff match ups instead of first-round blowouts local fans have become accustomed to.
"The factors should be competition," he added. "When the outcome is predetermined, the beauty of sport is lost."
This move brings renewed life to Long Beach football teams, in particular the bottom half of the Moore League where teams have recently been destined to play a Trinity League-type team in the first round of the PAC-5 playoffs.
CIF-SS released the 13 new divisions in June, and while Long Beach Poly won't move down from Division 1 with the other elite teams, the remaining Moore League teams are moving down. Lakewood is now in Division 4 for the 16-team playoff bracket while Wilson moved to Division 6, Cabrillo and Millikan dropped to Division 7, Jordan went to Division 8, and Compton rounds out the league in Division 12. St. Anthony is now in Division 10.
“It is what it is,” Wilson head coach Mark Ziegenhagen said of the move. “It’ll be nicer for us obviously because we’ll have a chance to win some playoff games. Maybe one day the Moore League can be back up there, but we’ve got to prove we can win in our division first.”
It’s important to note that the playoff criteria haven’t changed. The top three teams in the Moore League will still quality for the CIF-SS playoffs. Now, instead of going straight to the PAC-5 Division, they'll fill a spot in the 16-team bracket in their respective divisions.
"You still have to make the playoffs," Wigod said. "The main issue is getting through your league. Having a good overall record is important in the at-large, but strength of schedule in the non-league can hurt you."
Local fans can now look forward to a regular season finale that matters more to their team. Instead of Lakewood traveling to Jordan on Nov. 4 to find out who earns the right to visit a program like Mater Dei or Oaks Christian in the first round of the playoffs, it could end up deciding which teams gets a chance to be part of a winnable postseason bracket.
"This thing will breathe," Wigod said of the playoff equity, adding that a change could come where the divisions are announced as early as January thanks to online data collection. "There are all these possibilities to refine this going down the road. The possibilities are exciting, but we have to put a few years into this."
While Wigod preaches patience, he knows what the 2016 CIF-SS playoffs will be his legacy.
"It's going to be on my tombstone," Wigod joked. "We put a lot of work into it, the section likes it, it's time to roll it out and let it go. I'm really looking forward to bracket day."