In an effort to keep the local high school basketball fans
enlightened and informed, here is a little quiz:
Question: Is it possible for a team go winless in league and still
qualify for the playoffs?
Answer: Yes, when it’s a girls’ or boys’ basketball team that
plays in the CIF Southern Section.
When it comes to quirky playoff qualifications, basketball has its
own separate rule in determining which teams make it to the
postseason. And the Southern Section has instituted the rule for a
specific reason -- to make money.
It used to be if a team was among the top three finishers in
league -- or top four in larger leagues -- it would receive an
automatic berth into the playoffs. If a squad didn’t do well in
league -- playing in a league with a lot of talented teams -- or had
a good overall record, it could petition the Southern Section for an
However, at-large berths were never set in stone, and there was no
guarantee a team would be invited to take part in the postseason if
it didn’t place among the top three in league.
But all that has changed.
Now, to make the playoffs, all a team has to do is accumulate 11
wins. No matter how a team does in league, if it gets the 11
victories, its in -- no questions asked. Even if a squad has a losing
record, it is welcomed with open arms into the postseason.
Unfortunately, all the rule does is water down the playoffs.
“Basketball is kind of a different animal compared to other sports
when it comes to the playoffs,” said Sharon Hodge, Southern Section
secretary. “A team with 11 wins is in the playoffs.”
The only problem with this peculiar rule is it is exclusive to
basketball. No other Southern Section sport is afforded such a
special “helping hand” into the playoffs.
It’s not fair that sports other than basketball don’t have
specific win plateaus to qualify teams for the playoffs.
A good example of this happed last season with the Burroughs High
baseball team. Despite finishing with a 15-10-1 record -- and fourth
in a tough Foothill League -- the Indians’ wild-card bid was turned
The reason why basketball is treated differently comes down to one
thing -- money.
It’s a simple scenario: Scheduling more playoff basketball games
means more admission tickets will be sold and more money will go into
Along with football, basketball is the Southern Section’s big
money sport when it comes to playoff revenue. The organization just
doesn’t make money on water polo, tennis, soccer or golf playoff
Because of the special rule, several local basketball teams will
benefit this season and make the playoffs, despite not finishing
among the top teams in league.
* The Burbank girls’ team -- which has one win in the Foothill
League -- won its 11 games before league even started. Although the
Bulldogs (12-12) will probably finish last in league, making it to
the postseason will be a nice going-away present for senior Christine
* The Burroughs girls’ team -- with two league victories -- also
put itself in the playoffs prior to league play. Last season, the
Indians (13-12) finished third in league and made it to the Division
IIA quarterfinals. This season, they will probably finish fourth or
* The Burroughs boys’ team went into the final week of league play
fifth in the Foothill League with one win. However, a victory
Thursday against cross-town rival Burbank will propel the Indians
(10-13) into the playoffs.
* The Bellarmine-Jefferson boys’ team entered the last week of
Santa Fe League play needing one win to make the playoffs.
Unfortunately for the Guards (10-12, 2-7 in league), they lost Monday
night to L.A. Salesian, 58-56.
For Bell-Jeff to sneak into the playoffs, it would have to defeat
L.A. Daniel Murphy -- ranked No. 4 in Division IVAA -- at 7 p.m.
today in a game on the road.
As long as the special basketball rule is in place, coaches should
take advantage of it. If a coach wants to ensure his team makes the
playoffs every season, he can just schedule a bunch of nonleague
games against weak teams. That way, no matter how the team does in
league, it will always be in the postseason.
As bad as the scenario sounds, the Southern Section is encouraging
this type of mentality with its 11-win rule.
But there is a better solution. In order for a team to qualify for
the playoffs -- without finishing among the top squads in its league
-- it would need to have 11 or 12 victories and a .500 or better
record. This way, at least all the nonautomatic berths will go to
schools with decent records.
I’ve got an even better idea: Why not just open the playoffs to
every team in the Southern Section, regardless of how they finish?
With that many teams in the postseason, the Southern Section could
make some really big bucks.
Maybe that’s a dumb idea. But so is the rule allowing every
basketball team with 11 wins into the playoffs.
* JEFF TULLY is the sports editor of the Burbank Leader. He can be
reached at 843-8700, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.