Soccer rule revision closer to reality

By: Eric J. Gourley, Journal Sports Writer
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The future of competitive high school soccer in the foothills could be in jeopardy after the largest section in the state voted unanimously in favor of a controversial proposed bylaw revision Thursday morning. Less than 24 hours after the Sac-Joaquin Section voted unanimously against modifying California Interscholastic Federation Bylaw 600 at its board of managers meeting Wednesday, the Southern Section instructed its delegates to the CIF State Federated Council to support the revision at the council’s meeting next Friday. The proposed revision “would mandate that students could not compete on an outside team in the sport of soccer while competing for their high school team, regardless of the season in which soccer is played,” according to a section agenda. The bylaw already prohibits “outside” participation in other sports. The North Coast Section’s Bay Area Conference suggested the revision to its board of managers earlier this spring, alleging club soccer programs that play during the winter draw athletes away from high school sports during that season. The conference also argued that soccer athletes “are overextending themselves and playing as many as 12 soccer matches per week, practicing two to three days per week after a school practice.” The proposal has outraged many high school coaches in the foothills, a majority of whose players would likely pick their club teams over school squads if forced to choose. “It puts our kids between a rock and a hard place,” said Pete Saco, Sac-Joaquin Section commissioner. “People say ‘why should this sport be treated differently than basketball?’ and my answer is we have weather issues.” Currently, the bylaw bars soccer players from competing with an “outside” team only during the winter prep season. The bylaw hasn’t affected the sport at local high schools in recent years since Sac-Joaquin Section boys soccer occurs in the fall and girls play in the spring. That isn’t the case in the Southern Section, one of a handful in the state that already plays soccer in the winter. “The southern half of the state really has no business voting on this item,” Saco said. “They don’t really have our weather issues per se. If we could play in the winter, we would play in the winter.” There are 137 total votes in the Federated Council, which meets once during each of the three high school sports seasons. Decisions are made by majority, and votes conducted at board of managers meetings dictate how section representatives will allocate all of a particular section’s votes. The Southern Section always has twice the number of weighted votes (36) as the next largest section, the Sac-Joaquin Section (18). The North Coast Section, where the proposed revision originated, has the third-most votes (14), followed by Central Coast and Los Angeles (13 each), San Diego (12), Central (10), Northern (five) and Oakland and San Francisco (two apiece). The State Department of Education and CIF president, president-elect and past president also have one vote each. The remaining eight votes are distributed evenly among eight state associations and committees. The Southern Section, which includes 60 percent of California high schools but has just over 26 percent of the total votes, has previously opposed measures that passed and vice versa, but Sac-Joaquin Section officials are already “trying to play every option out,” Saco said. “If there was an issue in Southern California that didn’t affect our section at all, I would hope I would have enough foresight to ask our representatives not to vote, to abstain from voting,” the commissioner added. Saco said the Central Coast Section is joining the Sac-Joaquin Section in voting against the proposal. Next Friday’s meeting will be held at the Embassy Suites in Sacramento.