A sweeping releaguing proposal affecting all 49 schools in the City Section was praised for its originality and fairness, according to an informal survey of Valley coaches.
The proposal, which was released Wednesday, divides City schools in all sports into six conferences, five of which consist of two, four-team leagues. The sixth conference includes a five-team league.
The conferences, which are structured roughly along geographical lines, are divided into 4-A and 3-A divisions. The 2-A division has been eliminated.
The City's 16 Valley schools are divided into two conferences. One conference consists of Cleveland, Granada Hills, Kennedy and San Fernando in one league, and Canoga Park, Chatsworth, El Camino Real and Taft in the other.
The Valley's other conference consists of Birmingham, Monroe, Reseda and Van Nuys in one league; the five-team league comprises Grant, North Hollywood, Poly, Sylmar and Verdugo Hills.
A 20-member committee of administrators, athletic directors and coaches formulated the plan, which was presented to principals Wednesday. After one month of study, a subcommittee will meet to consider revisions and amendments. City Commissioner Hal Harkness said he hopes the plan is adopted by the end of March.
The proposal would alleviate problems under the current system by reducing travel time and expenses and keeping schools in the same leagues for most sports, Harkness said. Flexibility is built into the plan by allowing movement within conferences for different sports, according to Harkness.
The proposal also might result in expanded football schedules. Each school would play all seven remaining conference members, allowing for only two nonconference games. Harkness has initiated a move to expand schedules from nine to 10 games, which would parallel Southern Section football schedules.
Harkness said the scheduling change would be discussed at the next Interscholastic Athletic Committee meeting, scheduled Feb. 22.
Harkness said he expects schools to accept the proposal's basic concept of leagues within conferences.
"It has been difficult to formulate league schedules when each school has had to be in contact with 20 or 25 different schools depending on the sport," Harkness said. "With 49 schools, that isn't enough to put everybody where they belong. The league-and-conference concept is different but it grows on you."
Reseda football Coach Joel Schaeffer praised the plan even though his team would lose 2-A status under its provisions.
"It's a new concept and that's unique. We sometimes stay with old traditional things and it holds us back. Change is inevitable and you can't make everybody happy, but this plan is fair. It's rejuvenating."
Taft basketball Coach Jim Woodard is one coach whose team is affected by the plan's flexibility. Taft is grouped with Canoga Park, Chatsworth and El Camino Real in 4-A baseball and football leagues. In basketball, Woodard's team is moved to the conference's other league with Cleveland, Granada Hills and Kennedy and plays at the 4-A level. San Fernando, a 4-A team in baseball and football, takes Taft's place in the other basketball league, which drops to the 3-A level.
Woodard's initial reaction stemmed from self-interest--his teams have lost nine consecutive games to Cleveland.
"Gee, I don't want to be in the same league as Cleveland. They never run out of talent and they're not getting any weaker," he said. "That's the best league in the Valley. . . . But I like the innovative approach with the leagues and conferences. It's a different, original approach."
Chatsworth baseball Coach Bob Lofrano said he liked the proposal but rued what likely would be the end of an era that has produced a balance of power among the West Valley, Mid-Valley and East Valley baseball leagues.
Lofrano expressed concern over a scheduling proposal that calls for baseball teams to play each league member four times and each nonleague conference member once.
"There are still some questions, but the conference-and-league idea is a good one. I think we could live with what we've got," he said.
Hamilton football Coach Dave Lertzman, who served on the releaguing committee and is credited with devising the conference concept, said the chief benefactor of the plan will be athletes.
"Geographically, the City doesn't break down in sixes, it breaks down in fours," he said. "That means there will be more league championships. That gives more kids a chance to feel good about themselves, which is positive for programs."