Tuesday, August 26, 2008

High school football rankings

Today, ESPN takes a stab at an interesting question: Which state has the best high school football? They rank their top 8 states-- I'm sure West Virginia is #9-- with Texas at the top, followed by Florida and California. They'll have a tourney-style vote off to determine the champion, Arrow Impossibility be damned. Personally, I'd say Florida or California probably produces the best teams, though it's certainly between the top 3. It's just a population and weather issue.

High school football, as the article notes, has become increasingly national, and I think that fact can be attributed directly to De La Salle High School in Concord, California. In the midst of their 151-game win streak, De La Salle encountered some resistance from their league. Being a private school, they were paired with other private schools in the area (I'd suspect it was entirely private schools, as that's how leagues are generally organized, but I could be wrong). Well, the variance in ability in private school leagues are generally a lot higher than in public school leagues-- again, this is a large generalization, but usually the very best and the very worst teams are private high schools, and public schools usually fall in the middle. This might not be a problem in most sports, but as a former coach of mine liked to say, football is where the big kids run over the little kids. The potential for serious injury, if you're a small private school having to line up against De La Salle, was becoming a serious worry, so some of the lower ability high schools in their league refused to take the field.

Obviously, the league doesn't want this situation to persist-- it doesn't help anyone. Usually, it would be the schools who refuse to play the game that would be punished, and I don't know exactly how the proceedings went, but after it was all said and done, De La Salle was either forced out of the league or left voluntarily-- probably a little bit of both. It wasn't hard to see that De La Salle-- at least in football-- just wasn't fit for that league anymore.

Since just about every team at every level is in a league, it might be easy to overlook the fact that leagues make it really easy to fill a schedule with games. You've always got some open dates, usually at the beginning of the season for football, to play other teams in your area outside of your league, but it's usually only a few games. And that works out fine-- both because you don't need more than a few games, and, more importantly, the teams you are trying to schedule only need a few games too. It's a pretty good equilibrium.

Well, De La Salle got thrown completely off this equilibrium. Now, they're trying to fill a schedule full of non-league games. Physical reality dictated that they would need to travel. Concord is in the East Bay, so they have a slate of Bay Area teams to play that aren't too far away, but even this didn't satisfy the demand for games.

What is important to realize is that De La Salle, at this point, was one of, if not the, best teams in the country. They were fixtures atop the USA Today Super 25 poll, the initial and still most well-respected high school football ranking. It's not quite right to consider what would have happened if they weren't-- after all, it was them being so superior in the first place that got them removed from their league in the first place. So combine the fact that they were very good, had a streak that was getting more and more publicity beyond the immediate area, the fact that California did not have a state playoff system to determine a state champion, and also a healthy rivalry between the north part of the state and the south...and presto, a large scale game of playing a traditional southern California power made sense. I believe the first games were with Mater Dei-- I could be mistaken, either them or Long Beach Poly-- but soon expanded past these two schools (De La Salle had won all of these initial games) to a whole host of southern California teams, and then to other states as well. Once it was shown that sufficiently popular teams could generate the draw needed to make this work, the frequency of games increased-- now we're seeing a number of inter-regional matchups. And ESPN has begun to show a number of these games as well, which will only support their occurrence even more.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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(Submitted using Net3 for R4i Nintendo DS.)