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

CIF official addresses decision to play all 15 state championship bowl games in Southern California this season

The California Interscholastic Federation is eager to put football to the test.

It is unclear how smoothly things will go and will not have all of the details for several weeks. It simply knows that it will be unlike any of its previous state football championships since the format was expanded to multiple divisions in 2015.

All divisions (15 now) will be played at three neutral venues for the first time since expansion, as approved by the CIF’s federated council last spring.

The CIF announced the locations for the games on Tuesday: Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, which hosted the upper-division games the previous two seasons, El Camino College in Torrance, and Pasadena City College.

This season, the North will have no games.

According to Brian Seymour, the CIF’s associate executive director, the agreement with the three Southern California community colleges is only for one season.

“This is the starting point,” Seymour explained. “We’re attempting something novel. This is the format we are going to use this year. Then we’ll reassess and see how things go.”

The North could potentially host the games in future seasons, according to Seymour, before adding, “For this year, I think we need to figure out what the pros and cons are.” After we’ve gone through it, we’ll be able to move on from there.”

Previously, only games in the upper division were played at neutral sites. The lower divisions were held at home.

Since the upper-division games relocated to Southern California in 2018, North schools have hosted the lower-division games at their home venues. The South hosted lower-division games during the three seasons (2015-17) that the upper-division games were held at Sacramento State.

Why make a change now?

“We looked at all our regional and state championships,” he said. “It’s not just football. Regional events were held at high school campuses. However, our state events (in other sports) were held in neutral locations.

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

Finally, Seymour added, after having to turn away some families who did not purchase a ticket early enough at local high school venues last season, as well as poor weather that turned at least one high school field into a mud bath, the CIF determined that now was the time to find a better way.

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

The CIF has not decided which divisions will be played at which locations. He believes the upper division games could be split among the three facilities, all of which have synthetic turf fields.

“Right now, we’re kind of leaving that open,” said Seymour. “We’ll look to see where our teams are coming from.” In other words, who qualifies and what can we do? We must consider the size. Each of these facilities is different in size. We need to plan ahead of time to see who can hold what. Behind the scenes, there are a lot of moving parts.”

The capacities of Saddleback (8,000) and El Camino (7,869) are comparable. The 5,400-seat Robinson Stadium at Pasadena City College is named after baseball legend Jackie Robinson and his brother, Mack.

For those concerned about Southern California bias, such as some on social media, Sacramento has hosted the state basketball championships for decades and will do so again in March.

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