Section realignment proposal leaves local schools unscathed

By David Witte / sports@losbanosenterprise.comJanuary 10, 2013 

The Sac-Joaquin Section announced its first proposal on Tuesday in a meeting in Stockton, and for the most part the proposal leaves the Los Banos schools alone.

The proposal is the section's first draft. Public meetings will be held Jan. 29, Feb. 19 and March 12 as the section hammers out its final realignment for 2014.

The initial proposal would send Patterson and Central Valley of Ceres from the Western Athletic Conference (the league LB and Pacheco belong to) to the Valley Oak League while sending Lathrop and Weston Ranch of Stockton from the VOL to the WAC.

"It doesn't really affect us," Los Banos athletic director Joe Barcellos said. "We're not leaving, and we're not splitting with Pacheco."

Central Valley and Patterson have the two largest enrollments in the current league -- 1,692 for Central Valley and 1,632 for Patterson. The move to the VOL would make that a true Division 3 league.

"I know Central Valley was kind of looking for a move to a higher-division league, because in sports like basketball, their power ratings are hindered because they play in a Division 4-dominant WAC," Pacheco athletic director Charlie Pikas said. "They were OK staying in the WAC, but let it be known that they wouldn't be opposed to moving up."

After the monthly scheduled meeting of the WAC athletic directors on Wednesday, Barcellos came away with the impression the Patterson and Central Valley weren't too keen on being moved.

"When it's all said and done, I like to think our league stays the same," Barcellos said. "There's 181 schools involved, so sometimes what we want and what we get aren't the same. We met today, and everybody would like to stick together."

Lathrop's 1,138 enrollment and Weston Ranch's 1,209 (according to the section's numbers for this year), would make the WAC truer to form as a Division 4 league, and would leave Pacheco's 1,539 enrollment as the largest in the league. Lathrop, one of the smallest schools in the current VOL, would have the smallest enrollment in the proposed WAC, 7 fewer than Los Banos in 2012-13 (Central Catholic, being a private school, is an "anomaly" according to the section, with enrollment of 410).

The splitting of Ceres and Central Valley raises the question whether the section might, at some point in the future, split Los Banos and Pacheco. Barcellos said it's unlikely, but still a possibility, since he doesn't see Los Banos (1,145 enrollment) and Pacheco getting closer in numbers. Pikas wasn't so sure.

"Going through the whole transition, I think eventually the schools will find a way to balance out," Pikas said. "I don't see us staying extremely large compared to them forever. I think there will be a balance. The one thing you don't want to do is panic and move us out when we might be same size in a few years."

Pikas has been there before when a town split between two schools, then had those two schools split into different leagues, when he coached softball in Tracy.

"It's a little different than when we split in Tracy," Pikas said. "We had a 10-team SJAA conference, and when it came time to split that up, that basically came down to people didn't want Lincoln and St. Mary's in same league, so they split those two, then split every other natural rival.

"This one's different in the sense that they're moving Central Valley and Patterson out mostly based on student enrollment."

The WAC's concerns are just one voice in a cacophony of many since Tuesday's announcement. The proposal calls for the breakup of the current Modesto Metro Conference, which Modesto City Schools has tried hard to keep together. It would also pull Oakdale from the VOL, where it has been for decades, into the MMC. Sonora would drop from the VOL to the Division 5 Mother Lode League, which would not be all that happy to see Sonora. Modesto Christian would play in the Division 6 Southern league, except for basketball, which would play in the Division 1 Central California League. So there is still plenty for the section to hash out.

"I know the first proposal is almost never accepted," Barcellos said. "...When we go back, it'll be interesting to see the numerous counterproposals."

Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at sports@losbanosenterprise.com

Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at sports@losbanosenterprise.com

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