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4 Santa Maria Schools Seek Move to CIF Central Section

Santa Maria High, Righetti, Pioneer Valley and St. Joseph join four SLO County schools that signed letter requesting membership starting in the 2018-19 year

There is a move by four Santa Maria-area high schools and four schools in San Luis Obispo County to secede from the CIF-Southern Section and join the Central Section beginning in the 2018-19 school year.

Administrators from Santa Maria High, Righetti, Pioneer Valley and St. Joseph have joined Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles and Mission Prep in signing a letter to Central Section Commissioner Jim Crichlow stating their intention to become members of the California Interscholastic Federation Central Section.

The letter will be presented at an executive board meeting of the Central Section on Oct. 5 in Porterville, said Greg Lanthier, athletic director at Pioneer Valley who’s been leading the movement to leave the Southern Section.

The Southern Section is by far the largest of the 10 sections in California. It includes most public and private high schools in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Mono and Inyo counties and a small portion of Kern County. The Central Section includes schools in the San Joaquin Valley.

“Everybody in the PAC 8 (except Atascadero — still contemplating), and Santa Maria from the Los Padres League are applying for change by presenting this intent letter at the Oct. 5 meeting,” Lanthier said in an email.

“The timeline from the Central Section is that this will be considered a first reading and membership will be officially voted upon in January at the CIF Central Section’s Board of Governors meeting.”

Lanthier listed reasons why the schools are seeking to change sections. Among them:

— The ability to determine league alignments “without interference from 60 other schools that have nothing to do with us.”

— Reduced travel costs for schools that participate in the playoffs.

— More access to the playoffs and better opportunities to succeed in the playoffs. 

— Individual sports being based on competitive equity (playoffs) and not enrollment.

— League alignment: the opportunity to create competitive equity leagues based on the individual sports for each school rather than the athletic department as a whole.  

County schools Santa Ynez, Lompoc, Cabrillo and Orcutt Academy told Lanthier they have no interest in leaving the Southern Section.

“We've been involved in discussions for some time about the change,” Ken Frederickson, athletic director at Santa Ynez, said in an email. “Santa Ynez, Cabrillo, Lompoc and Orcutt Academy have never had an interest, primarily for being at the southern end of our area. Even if we were farther north, I still wouldn't go.”

Southern Section spokesman Thom Simmons told The Los Angeles Times that the section wouldn’t block the move if approved.

“Each school must ultimately decide what is in the best interests of their individual schools and students,” Simmons told the Times. “Whether that be in the area of academics, activities or athletics. If after thoughtful consideration these schools feel that both interests are better served in another section, we not only do not oppose the move, we welcome it.”

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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