Turning on the AC: Competitive equity keeps producing surprises

Turning on the AC: Competitive equity keeps producing surprises
Glendale coach Tom Gossard leads a cheer before Monday's quarterfinal match against Rosemead. The Nitros are advancing to the school's first girls' championship match in any sport. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)

If you speak to area coaches, there may not be a more polarizing topic than CIF division realignment.

The CIF Southern Section office employed a new system for all its sports before the fall of 2016, switching from a format that kept league teams in the same division, while moving to a structure that promoted "competitive equity."


Some have been winners, some have been losers. Maybe the only thing that's certain is that four postseasons into this new system, everything seems upside down and, in some cases, unbelievable.

Just take a look at this Friday.


The Glendale High girls' tennis team, which finished fourth in the Pacific League, earned the school's first-ever trip in any girls' sport to a CIF championship match via a 12-6 win over Hemet in Wednesday's semifinals.

Outside of boys' water polo, Glendale sports have been in a lull for most of the century.

Yet, in just the last year, Glendale girls' sports have reaped the benefits of competitive equity.

Before the fall of 2016, only one Glendale girls' team – water polo in 2007 – had advanced to the postseason semifinals.

Since the CIF's policy change, Glendale girls' basketball reached the semifinals in February and girls' tennis is heading to the finals on Friday.

No. 2-seed Glendale will compete in the Division IV final against No. 4 Rancho Mirage at 1 p.m. at the Claremont Club.

Two hours before that match begins in Claremont, the Crescenta Valley girls' tennis team will take on Redlands in the Division III finals.

Crescenta Valley, which finished runner-up in the Pacific League, is also making its first trip to the finals in program history.

For years, Crescenta Valley was chained with the rest of the Pacific League to Division II. Years ago when Pacific League titles were a regularity for the Falcons, they made their share of deep playoff runs, but times had changed.

In 2015, the Falcons' last year in Division II, the squad finished 1-1 in the playoffs and was eliminated in the first round.

Since then, however, the program was dropped to Division III and has flourished.

With its semifinal 12-6 win over Brentwood on Wednesday, Crescenta Valley has gone a whopping 8-1 over the last two postseasons with a quarterfinal playoff berth in 2016 superseded by Friday's finals advancement. The Falcons' semifinal appearance was their first since 2003 and Friday will mark their first finals berth.

In comparison, the league's two traditionally strong powers did not qualify to Friday's final.

League champion Arcadia was defeated by No. 1 Corona Del Mar, 10-8, in the Division I semifinals on Wednesday. League third-place Burbank, in Division II, was eliminated in the quarterfinals on Monday.

Arcadia, which won the 2015 Division II championship, has not been back to the finals since the league was broken up in the postseason due to competitive equity.

Perhaps if the Apaches were back in Division II, they would be preparing for another crown.

Another beneficiary of competitive equity has been Glendale Adventist Academy girls' volleyball.

Following a familiar postseason pattern, the Cougars will be making their school's first championship match appearance in any sport on Friday when top-seeded Glendale Adventist faces Santa Clarita Christian at 9 a.m. at Cerritos College.

As a member of the Independence League in 2015, the Cougars advanced to the quarterfinals of the Division V-AA (now Division IX) playoffs.

Last season, Glendale Adventist moved up into the Liberty League and missed the postseason, while league mates Archer (Division VII) and Providence (Division VIII) reached the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.

This year, back in the postseason, Glendale Adventist has taken advantage of its Division IX placement.

On the other hand, Providence tied Glendale Adventist for second in the Liberty League and was bounced in the second round of the Division XIII playoffs.

Some would say that is unfair, others that the placements are just given the historical nature of the teams.

I'm still not exactly sure what to think of these changes that previously saw Burbank football and boys' basketball reach titles games, while league champions like Crescenta Valley girls' basketball and La Cañada boys' basketball are forced to play outside their comfort zone.

What I can say is that I never thought I'd see Glendale girls' tennis advance to a final and now here are the Nitros.

If that's the sort of change and disruption the CIF Southern Section office foresaw, then I tip my cap. I certainly didn't see that coming.