CIF state football championships: Why NorCal isn’t hosting any games

The California Interscholastic Federation is ready for a football test drive.

It’s not sure how smooth things will go and won’t have all the specifics for several weeks. It just knows that it will be different than any of its other state football championships since the format expanded to numerous divisions in 2015.

For the first time since expansion, all divisions (15 now) will be played at three neutral venues, which the CIF’s federated council approved last spring.

Tuesday, the CIF announced the sites for the games: Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, which played host to the upper-division games the past two seasons, El Camino College in Torrance and Pasadena City College.

The North won’t have any games this season.

Brian Seymour, the CIF’s associate executive director, told the Bay Area News Group on Wednesday that the agreement with the three Southern California community colleges is for one season.

“This is the jumping-off stage,” Seymour said. “We’re trying something new. We are going to go with this format for this particular year. Then we’ll re-evaluate and see how it goes.”

The North could potentially host the games in future seasons, Seymour said, before adding, “For this year, I think we have to find out what are the pros and cons. After we go through it, then we can kind of move forward from that point.”

In previous years, only the upper-division games were played at neutral sites. The lower divisions were played at home sites.

North schools have hosted the lower-division games at their home facilities since the upper-division games moved to Southern California in 2018. In the three seasons (2015-17) that the upper-division games were held at Sacramento State, the South had the lower-division games.

Why change now?

“We looked at all our regional and state championships,” Seymour said. “Not just football. Regional events were being held at high school home sites. But our state events (in other sports) were held at neutral sites.

“We already had the five (in football) that were held at Saddleback most recently. We were trying to figure out a way how we could pull off doing all potentially 15, trying to see if we could do it under one roof. We’ve been trying for a number of years to kind of look at ways that we could do this.”

Ultimately, Seymour added, after having to turn some families away last season who didn’t purchase a ticket early enough at local high school venues and poor weather that turned at least one high school field into a mud bath, the CIF concluded that now was the time to find a better way.

“That’s how we got to the three sites,” Seymour said.

The CIF hasn’t decided which divisions will be played at specific venues. It’s possible, he said, that the upper division games could be spread out among the three facilities, all of which have synthetic turf fields.

“Right now, we’re kind of leaving that open,” Seymour said. “We’re going to look and see where our teams are coming from. In other words, who has qualified and what we can do? We have to look at the size. Each one of those facilities is a different size. We have to plan ahead to see who can hold what. There’s a lot of moving parts behind the scenes.”

Saddleback (8,000) and El Camino (7,869) are similar in capacity. Pasadena City College’s Robinson Stadium – named after baseball legend Jackie Robinson and his brother, Mack – holds 5,400.

For anyone concerned about Southern California bias – i.e. some folks on social media – Sacramento has been the host city for the state basketball championships for decades and will be again in March.

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