April 18, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

A look at how most OC high school football leagues will likely be formed in 2024

Orange County high school football will likely look a lot different beginning in the 2024 season with a plan developed using competitive equity, the same concept applied in the CIF playoffs.

Rather than being placed in traditional leagues such as the Freeway League, the Empire League and the Sunset League, Orange County teams will be part of the Orange County Football Conference under a plan approved by county principals.

The conference will consist of 69 Orange County teams that play 11-man football.

Trinity League schools will not be part of the conference and that league will remain the same.

Teams will continue to play in the leagues they’ve been in during the upcoming 2023 season.

Under the new plan, there will be one four-team league, one five-team league and 10 six-team leagues based on competitive equity rankings utilizing calpreps.com for the previous two years. The current year’s record will account for 65 percent and the previous year’s record 35 percent to determine teams that go into a league in the following season.

“The very top division will be in a four team league,” said Mark Cunningham, Irvine Unified Athletic School District Athletic Director. “After that it’s all six team leagues except for the very bottom which will be a five-team league. This is basically to help out the teams that are in the lower quadrant to get more teams into the (CIF) playoffs.”

Cunningham said he doesn’t expect there will be appeals to the plan.

“The part that’s going to be strange about it is that you’re not going to know what the order is until after the 2023 season,” he said. “Once the season ends, then they will take the rankings and take the top four teams and that will create the first league. The way it was written, I think it will stay for two seasons.”

The proposal could break up some of the natural league rivalries in leagues such as the Freeway League, Empire League, South Coast League, Sea View League and Pacific Coast Conference, which a few years ago split into two leagues.

“That was brought up, especially with the athletic directors in deciding this and they said, ‘you can play those rivals in the first five games,'” Cunningham said.

Teams in the top-tiered four-team league which would have three league games could have a challenge filling out non-league schedules, Cunningham noted.

“Teams now feel that if they can play somebody in their league where everybody is pretty much equal and there’s not going to be a blowout, they have a chance to make it (in the playoffs),” Cunningham said.

Using the competitive equity criteria, Cunningham believes the plan will work well.

The CIF-SS Council will consider appeals and then vote on the plan in October.

“That is the entire premise behind it,” he said. “I think this one will probably pass.”

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—Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com