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North and South : The Sports Confederacy Known as CIF Has Its Own Geographic Fault Lines

October 16, 1986|PAUL McLEOD | Times Staff Writer

CHESTER, Calif. — There's a simple quality to life in this Northern California community on the north shore of Lake Almanor near the entrance to Lassen Volcanic National Park. It's an attitude that plays a large part in nearly everything the townspeople do.

Here on the banks of the north fork of the Feather River, Darold Adamson uses that simple approach as the new commissioner of the Northern Section of the California Interscholastic Federation, the governing body for the state's high school athletic programs.

Like other commissioners in Northern California, Adamson favors a decentralized commissioner's office that allows the athletic administrations of individual leagues more power in making decisions that directly affect them.

That philosophy goes with the territory, since a majority of the schools, like most of the communities here in the northern part of the state, are separated by hundreds of miles of rugged terrain and hours and hours of travel time.

Avoiding Complication

"Up here we want everything as uncomplicated as possible," Adamson said.

Five hundred miles to the south, Stan Thomas should have it so easy. Like Adamson, he recently became a CIF commissioner, but of the state's largest region, the Southern Section, which encompasses the largest urban area in the state.

Through the direction of five previous, strong-willed top administrators, the Southern Section places much of its decision-making process in the hands of the commissioner. With nearly 500 schools, it has been called "almost a state in ourselves" by outgoing Commissioner Ray Plutko.

The development of the CIF--and its management--is unique to the nation.

"There is no other state like California," said Brice Durbin, the executive director of the National Federation of State High School Assns.

Since its founding in 1914 in a Los Angeles YMCA, the CIF has grown to encompass 1,127 member schools. It is the nation's second largest high school athletic federation. Only Texas (1,157 member schools) is larger.

Autonomous Zones

But California, unlike other states, is divided into 10 semiautonomous zones or sections. Over the years the sections have grown into philosophical islands, each with problems unique to the portion of the state each occupies.

The sections range in membership from six schools (in Oakland) to 474 in the massive Southern Section. Each is allowed to establish its own procedures and regulations within loose bylaws handed down from a state office in Fullerton.

State Commissioner Thomas E. Byrnes, a former Southern Section commissioner, says he acts "as a cover for our organizations."

The state office "is the gladiator in the arena," he said. "This system has worked very well for 70-some years."

"The philosophies vary greatly from section to section," Byrnes said. "There is a tremendous difference from north to south."

And nowhere "from north to south" are the differences more magnified than here in Chester, where Adamson runs the second-largest geographic section (behind the Southern Section) as the state's only part-time commissioner. He replaces Gregg LeMaster, who died in January after heart surgery.

The Northern Section stretches from the Oregon border south to Marysville, from the Nevada border west to the Trinity Mountains. It has only 68 schools, but encompasses some of the state's best known wooded areas, including Lake Tahoe and Lassen, Modoc, Shasta and Klamath national forests.

Adamson will be paid $11,400 next year, plus some fringe benefits "which I still have to negotiate."

"It's really a full-time job for a part-time wage," he said.

The base salary for Thomas, the Southern Section commissioner, is $50,808. The base rate for new Commissioner Hal Harkness of the Los Angeles City Section is $45,075.

Adamson, the Northern Section commissioner, plans an operating budget of about $45,000 for the 1986-87 school year, "about the same as last year."

In the 1985-86 school year, the last year for which figures are available, the Southern Section had a budget of $850,000.

Thomas has 12 paid employees. They include six full-time secretaries, three full-time assistant commissioners, a full-time media director and a fund raiser, whose salary is split between a base wage and a percentage of what he brings in.

Adamson has no paid help but hopes that he can persuade his wife, Judy, who works at Chester's only bank, to do some typing for him. He hopes he can budget money to pay her "around $5 an hour."

In his tree-shrouded, single-story home around the corner from Chester High School, where he was a teacher, coach and principal for 28 years, Adamson has fashioned a new office for the Northern Section. It is a 12-by-14-foot room adjacent to the closet that once housed the family water well.

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