When the chips are down and the deck is stacked against you, a bit of imaginative reshuffling can do wonders to cure the problems of an ailing athletic program : The Ways and Means of Releaguing

Times Staff Writer

Laguna Hills and Orange high schools' athletic teams have been struggling in their respective leagues--the South Coast and the Century leagues--but chances are they will have increased winning percentages starting in 1986.

And Trabuco Hills, a school scheduled to open in the fall, might not suffer the typical growing pains of a new school once it enters a league in 1986.

All are effected by Orange County's recent releaguing plan for the 1986-87 school year, which was approved earlier this month by a majority of county's 56 public principals. The plan includes:

- The formation of eight, six-team leagues in the county with only the Empire League remaining as an eight-team league.

- The establishment of a new, but as of yet, unnamed league in the south county that includes Trabuco Hills, a school with a projected enrollment of 1,000 students in 1986-87.

- The trimming of the traditionally football-strong Century League to six teams with Orange and Tustin, which have struggled in recent years joining different leagues.

- The shifting of Laguna Hills, with an enrollment of 1,650 students, out of the South Coast League where it has had problems competing against Capistrano Valley (2,100), El Toro (3,000) and Mission Viejo (2,177).

A five-man committee chaired by La Habra Principal Tom Triggs with assistance from principals Bob Metz (Mission Viejo), Ron Cozort (Valencia), Jack Fox (Villa Park) and Warren Stephenson (Kennedy) began preparation for the tedious task of releaguing last June.

Basically, there are three criteria for releaguing--size of school, distance involved for travel to competition and strength of programs. The strength of program generally refers to the strength of a school's football program.

Releaguing is nothing new. Only the process has changed through the years. Originally, the Southern Section commissioner and an executive committee organized a releaguing committee, with members comprised of administrators from various geographical regions of the section.

It was the committee's job to develop the leagues that subsequently received final approval by the section's general council, which was comprised of league representatives.

But the job of releaguing became too big for one committee. Twelve years ago, the section was divided into 11 geographic areas and administrators from each area jointly developed proposals.

Triggs, who was recommended to chair this year's committee by Newport Harbor Principal Tom Jacobson, also helped to rewrite the releaguing procedures that were utilized this year.

There's also been one other significant change--the releaguing process is in a two-year cycle as opposed to the one-year shifting that was maintained until four years ago.

"I think you'll find the committee is making better decisions operating under the two-year cycle," Triggs said. "There is also a settling process where rivalries can grow . . . a sort of stability."

The two-year cycle also provides the committee lead time in the event of the opening (Trabuco Hills) or closing (Lowell) of schools and any subsequent decline or increase in enrollment.

The Orange County releaguing procedure is basically a seven-step process as outlined in the Southern Section's 46-page releaguing manual, which serves as a guide rather than a directive. Here's the procedure:

- The chairman calls a meeting of all county principals where any principal may bring a releaguing proposal. Also, the chairman reviews the releaguing criteria at this meeting.

- The principals elect four representatives to assist the releaguing chairman. The five-member committee meets at a later date to develop proposals. Triggs' committee considered eight initial proposals.

- The tentative proposals were mailed to the county's 56 public high school principals for consideration. Triggs said a total of five options were sent to the principals to consider.

- The second meeting of the county's principals offered a forum for them to debate the five options. The five-man committee considered all arguments before meeting to prepare the final proposal.

- Once the final proposal was prepared, it was mailed to the county's 56 principals before a third meeting was scheduled. The intent of the third meeting, according to the manual, "is to provide information and allow dialogue before voting on the final proposal. No changes will be made in the final proposal as a result of this meeting."

- Finally, the proposal was mailed to all principals who were asked to vote for or against the measure. A simple majority is all that is necessary to carry the proposal, and Triggs estimated that his committee's proposal was approved "by about 90%" of the county's principals.

- The proposal then must be approved by the Southern Section's executive committee and Triggs said the council should approve it in September.

Although the releaguing procedure basically followed the guidelines of the manual, Triggs said the participation of administrators is changing.

"In years prior, releaguing was the domain of the principals," Triggs said. "The principals were the only ones involved. This year, we had school boards and superintendents involved. I even received a letter from a concerned parent in the south county.

"Athletics are in the forefront as far as media exposure goes. There's been more media interest in releaguing than ever before. But it still comes down to a decision of the principals."

The criteria for releaguing is often debated. Many argue that the only criterion that should be utilized is enrollment. The Southern Section provides projected enrollment figures for every county school. Others point to proximity or the strength of a school's programs. But all administrators are ideally searching for equitable competition.

The principals' decision to create more six-team leagues is a step in that direction. In a six-team league, half of the teams gain entry into the playoffs, and there are fewer teams to compete against.

Scheduling also will be easier with seven leagues getting the opportunity to play more nonleague games. Transportation costs are generally lower because it is easier to align six schools competitively without involving excessive travel.

But critics of Triggs' releaguing plan point to Orange High and its placement in a south county league with schools such as Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills and Trabuco Hills. Sometimes, proximity takes a back seat to parity.

"Orange has freeway access to the other schools in that league," Triggs said. "Of all the schools that were involved in releaguing, they're probably the happiest. This was the second or third time they had expressed interest in a change.

"Every move we made, we constantly asked ourselves, 'Is this fair?' The only reason we releague every two years is to be fair. We tried to be fair to everyone. Of course, I'm sure there's somebody on Orange High's staff who's unhappy."

The Changes

Century League


El Modena


Santa Ana

Santa Ana Valley

Villa Park

Sea View League

Corona del Mar


Newport Harbor



University South Coast League

Capistrano Valley

Dana Hills

El Toro


Mission Viejo

San Clemente

New League

Costa Mesa

Laguna Beach

Laguna Hills


Trabuco Hills


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