The article below originally appeared on MercuryNews.com and is being reprinted with permission.
If a playoff system is good enough for the NCAA, it’s good enough for the community colleges in Northern California. Last week, the competition committee approved a proposal to realign the top 18 football teams into three conferences, with each champion earning automatic bids into the postseason plus an at-large team.
“In our old conference, if you lose one game, you’re pretty much done,” Foothill College coach Kelly Edwards said. “So it allows for a little more excitement.”
College of San Mateo coach Bret Pollack wouldn’t have minded if that was the case last year. The second-ranked Bulldogs didn’t get to play for a spot in the state championship because they finished as the runner-up in the NorCal Conference to eventual champion Butte.
The previous system called for the first-place teams in the NorCal and Valley conferences to face off in a bowl game. That made the five-game preseason virtually meaningless in the standings as fifth-ranked Fresno City (7-3) leapfrogged CSM (9-1) for a chance to play its way into the state title game.
“I have no sour grapes about any of it,” Pollack said. “It was what it was last year. But this year four teams will go to the playoffs. Now two more teams get into the playoffs and it will be a better format to insure that the best teams get to the playoffs.”
CSM and Foothill will join the newly founded Bay 6 along with De Anza, City College of San Francisco and Santa Rosa — all five were members of the old NorCal.
Diablo Valley replaces Butte, which remains in the NorCal with newcomers American River, Feather River, Sacramento City, Sierra and Siskiyious.
The last Div. I conference will be the Valley, which includes Chabot, Fresno City, Laney, Modesto, Delta and College of the Sequoias.
“I think it started to become a true reality about a month and a half ago,” Edwards said. “I think everybody in the A’s for a long time was tired of playing eight or nine games and kind of beating up on each other and the other groups were kind of protected in our estimation. So we wanted to go to a two-tier system for a long time and if finally became a reality.
“The other good part about it is now the nonconference means something.”
Pollack agreed: “Getting away from bowls and towards the playoffs, it makes it more meaningful. … I’m a fan of playoffs and settling it on the field versus probably through bowls.”
The remaining 14 teams in Northern California won’t be eligible to play for a state title.
But just because CSM and Foothill can play their way into the playoffs, neither coach feels it will provide a recruiting advantage.
“Everybody we recruit is getting recruited by the same schools that are in the same boat,” Edwards said.
Pollack hasn’t even bothered informing his Bulldogs that anything has changed.
“They don’t need to know,” Pollack said. “Until the schedule comes out, I’m just waiting.”