Prep Sports: NCS still stands for 'No Common Sense'

New football playoff format shows the more things change, the more they stay the same, columnist says

I think over the years my two favorite sayings have been, "It is what it is" and "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

"It is what it is" has always been a favorite as I am a firm believer that you should only worry about what you can control and not let the things you don't control burden you down.

"The more things change, the more they stay the same" applies to many things in life, but to me, it has always been about the disaster that is decision-making by ruling organizations of high school athletics.

The North Coast Section and the California Interscholastic Federation are the two organizations that control high school sports for the section that San Ramon Valley schools fall into.

In my 20 years as a sportswriter/editor for the Tri-Valley Herald, I spent countless hours sitting in NCS at-large and seeding meetings for the playoffs. There have been many times I left shaking my head at some of the decisions handed down.

This year may have taken it to a new level. In football, NCS opted for a new Open Division, as there is an Open Division in the CIF State Bowl games. In the past, you needed to be a section champ to advance to the NorCal playoffs and have a chance to advance to the CIF State Bowl games.

Last year, the old way stung Foothill, as the Falcons went through the regular season unbeaten, only to fall in the Division I finals to De La Salle in a game where the Falcons gave the Spartans all sorts of problems.

De La Salle then went to the Open Division, but Foothill's season ended because they were not a section champion. A boneheaded procedure to be sure, and a disservice to the Falcons as they very realistically had a good chance to advance to the state finals.

This year NCS decided to have an "Open" division, as well as the Division 1-5 tournaments. Four teams were selected to participate in the Open NCS playoffs. OK, things are simple enough -- win your Division and move on to the NorCal and have a chance at the State Bowl game.

Not so fast.

If you advance to the Open finals at the section level and lose, you can displace the Division I champion and move on to the NorCal playoffs. This year, it could be another East Bay Athletic League team that gets dumped on by NCS.

Monte Vista has but one loss -- a 45-17 final to De La Salle in a game much closer than the final score indicated. They have a loaded, talented team, yet even if they beat a very good Antioch team in the Division I finals and win a section title, their season is over.

How is that fair?

This ineptitude directly affects all EBAL schools moving forward. People scream about a competitive imbalance between De La Salle and everyone else. This adds to the fire for if the Spartans continue winning and go to the Open bowl game, the Division I champion is rendered worthless.

There is a simple solution out there, but I would be shocked if it was implemented. For some reason, there were no Division I or Open Division games during Thanksgiving weekend. The championship games are set for this Friday and Saturday.

Had the games been played last weekend, then a game could be played between the D-I winner -- this year either Monte Vista or Antioch -- and the Open loser, likely Freedom.

That way the D-I representative would be decided on the field and not in a boardroom. Let's give the athletes the right to represent themselves.

For many years now NCS meant "No Common Sense" to me, and over the years it has not changed. In other words, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Editor's note: Dennis Miller is a contributing sports writer for the Pleasanton Weekly. He can be reached at

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3 people like this
Posted by Robert Schleicher
a resident of Danville
on Nov 30, 2016 at 10:58 am

Great article, Dennis! In my naivete, I assumed that the winner of the NCS Div. 1 championship (either Monte Vista or Antioch) would be allowed to advance in Div. 1 playoffs, instead of having to step aside for the Open Division loser. Especially since they could have played the Div. 1 champ game last week, and then had a free week to settle this on the field. Regardless, Monte Vista and coach Craig Bergman are having a great season. Go Mustangs!

Like this comment
Posted by Tom
a resident of Danville
on Nov 30, 2016 at 1:38 pm

Let the kids settle it on the field. On the other hand this is just HS Football and there are far greater concerns for our schools and kids than this petty issue.

4 people like this
Posted by Julie Krommenhoek
a resident of Monte Vista High School
on Dec 2, 2016 at 8:37 am

Thanks Dennis. Great article. And Tom, we have 33 seniors that I hope don't read your insensitive comment. They have worked very hard year round for 4 or more years to earn the right to represent their school on the field, and a group of guys in a board room somewhere decided that going undefeated in one of the toughest leagues around with an average margin of victory of over 28 points wasn't enough to earn them the right to play for the Open Division title and the right to advance to state. For them it was a travesty, not petty at all. A college football scholarship is worth a pretty penny and the exposure of a NorCal or state game could open up possibilities for some of these boys that they wouldn't otherwise get. Football is not like other sports that have competitive leagues where you get recognized and offered. These boys work year round to show their stuff in 10-12 games each fall and every opportunity matters, and no opportunity is petty, especially ones with state-wide exposure.

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