- How they got here
2005: During that year’s league realignment period, the 10-team San Joaquin Athletic Association faced the prospect of change as two new schools — McNair in the Lodi Unified School District, and Cesar Chavez and the Stockton Unified School District, respectively — opened up.
Sac-Joaquin Section Commissioner Pete Saco said all 12 schools discussed how to create a new league framework, but questions over where to place perennial powers St. Mary’s and Lincoln left things at an impasse.
“(People felt like) it would be a competition for third place,” said Saco, who then proposed to break up the rivals and form the current configuration of two six-team leagues.
Under the plan, the new SJAA would consist of Lodi, Bear Creek, Franklin, Chavez, Tracy and Lincoln. A new Tri-City Athletic League would include Tokay, McNair, Stagg, Edison, West and St. Mary’s.
Though the schools were not satisfied with the proposal — “They laughed at me,” Saco quipped — no alternatives stuck and the section’s proposal became final. The new leagues were officially set to split in a year later, but instead began play in 2005-06 in order to better incorporate newcomers Chavez and McNair.
2009: The section revisited the TCAL/SJAA format during this year’s realignment cycle, but no new option could be agreed upon by the two leagues.
2013: The proposal to reshuffle the TCAL and SJAA was first brought by West High School and later approved after a joint meeting between all 12 athletic directors in January.
An official recommendation was presented to the section by commissioners Randy Snider (SJAA) and Steve Lopez (TCAL), gaining quick approval during a Jan. 29 realignment meeting.
— Ed Yevelev
- Stockton school league implications
While Lodi and Tokay supported the new reshuffling as a chance to reunite rivalries, boost competition and benefit program development, members of the new all-Stockton school league see the potential for similar benefits.
Bear Creek Athletic Director Anthony Sahyoun said that set-up will allow room for league titles and playoff spots in sports that have often been dominated by one or two teams — examples include golf, tennis, water polo, swimming and football.
Those opportunities should not only drive the growth of the programs, Sahyoun said, but could also bring in more gate admission money by creating evenly-matched contests with higher stakes.
“In football, it would have been shocking the world to beat Lincoln. Now you would have a league where each year there’s not a pre-determined winner,” Sahyoun said. “In some sports that we’ve historically struggled in, we’ll have a chance to compete on a week-by-week basis.”
Sahyoun and McNair AD Quincy Noble agreed that the proximity of the league’s member schools will both ease the transportation burden and aid rivalries in its own right. Old SJAA foes Franklin and Edison would be reunited, while McNair and Bear Creek — north Stockton schools in the same Lodi Unified District — and Chavez and Stagg could form their own rivalries by virtue of proximity.
Despite seeing some benefits, Noble said he would have liked a big 12-team league and was disappointed not to have fellow LUSD members Tokay and Lodi included. He also challenged the perception of the Stockton league as a way of avoiding playing a school like St. Mary’s, noting McNair’s own recent TCAL titles in boys basketball and boys soccer.
“We don’t care who we play. We’ll compete with anybody,” he said. “We’ll have no problem with it.”
- Other local 2014-18 realignments
Elliot Christian’s Central California Athletic Alliance will grow from six teams to eight under the new plan, with Turlock Christian and Venture Academy coming aboard.
Lodi Academy’s Mountain Valley League will stay at nine teams, with Venture Academy switching over to the CCAA and Stockton’s newly-founded Excel Academy entering.
The Sierra Valley Conference, home to both Galt and Liberty Ranch High School, will go from a seven-team to a six-team league — losing three old members and gaining two new ones under the realignment plan.
Vista del Lago and River City were both moved to Division III leagues (the Capital Athletic League and Tri-City Conference, respectively), while Cosumnes Oaks is headed to the D-II Capital Valley Conference.
Incoming members will be Rosemont and Cordova.
Posted: Saturday, May 25, 2013 12:00 am
It was an uphill battle, to be sure — one that Matt Fuson will always remember. In the spring of 2005, his Lodi High School baseball team needed a pair of wins to return to the postseason.
The Flames’ opponent? Arguably the best Tokay High School club in recent memory, an eventual Sac-Joaquin Section Division I south champion led by future major leaguer David Cooper.
Saturday, May 25, 2013 12:00 am.