The on-again, off-again talks to merge the two largely public high school athletic leagues on the Peninsula for football appear to be gaining traction.
Under the proposal the 14-team Santa Clara Valley Athletic League and the 18-team Peninsula Athletic League would merge to form a 32-team, four-division league for football. A number of hurdles need to be cleared before the merger could take place, and no sooner than fall of the 2022-2023 school year.
“We’re definitely open to it,’’ SCVAL commissioner Brad Metheany said. “It makes sense. It would really help out teams that are struggling to keep their programs alive. It would help both leagues. All said and done it would save programs.’’
SCVAL football coaches voted 14-0 in favor of the realignment.
The four divisions would include one 'A' league with the top eight teams, two middle-level `B’ leagues and one lower-tier `C’ league, that would include programs that have struggled the most severely in recent years, such as Mills (which was unable to field a team this spring) and South San Francisco from the PAL, Monta Vista and Lynbrook from the SCVAL.
The top division would include most of the top public-school football programs in the Central Coast Section, programs such as three-time defending PAL Bay Division champion Menlo-Atherton along with traditional SCVAL De Anza Division heavyweights Los Gatos, Wilcox, Milpitas and Palo Alto.
“It would be a killer league,’’ Palo Alto coach Nelson Gifford said. “I don’t think you’d find many leagues tougher than that. It would be good for football in the Bay Area.’’
The SCVAL has advocated for this merger for several years, but initially encountered resistance from the PAL, a sentiment that appears to be changing.
“PAL coaches shrugged their shoulders and said it seemed like it was the SCVAL’s problem,’’ longtime Aragon coach Steve Sell said. “I disagreed, I thought we should be more global. At the time our (three six-team divisions) were working right. The last couple years that fifth and sixth spot in the Bay became harder to fill and there was more discrepancy in the Lake. The changes were pretty dramatic and something we really needed to look at.’’
“The PAL is finally facing what we’re facing,’’ Metheany said.
Historically, the Sequoia Union High School District schools (M-A, Woodside, Carlmont and Sequoia) were at one time aligned with the Palo Alto schools in the South Peninsula Athletic League, so it wouldn’t be a drastic change in that regard.
Sell also said he thinks more equitable schedules would result in better turnout for programs struggling with a lack of players.
“Kids are being very discriminating about what activities they pursue,’’ he said. “Do they want to go through the sacrifices to play a sport that will have four or five running clocks in a season and stare down the barrel of five miserable experiences? The gap between the top teams and lower teams continues to grow. We want to try to make sure the sport is an enjoyable experience.’’
An SCVAL/PAL merger would make a lot of sense, but it is not the only possible realignment scenario being discussed. The Campbell Union High School District schools (Del Mar, Prospect, Branham, Westmont and Leigh) have expressed some interest in leaving the Blossom Valley Athletic League and joining the SCVAL
Again, from a geographic standpoint, that move would carry a certain amount of logic.
“The lacrosse team at Lynbrook walks to Prospect for matches,’’ Metheany noted.
Also, Leigh and Westmont are located right on the outskirts of Los Gatos in another geographic link.
Only in time will we see how it all plays out.