Sports
January 19, 2018
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Deciding where ‘The Big Games’ are played

  • Aerial photocourtesy of Rancho Cotati High School student, Chris Miller.

By: JC Newman
December 15, 2017

Rancho Cotate High School hosted the 2017 NCS Football Semifinal Championship Game Dec. 2, which featured Cardinal Newman and Marin Catholic High Schools. Sitting in the bleachers with a friend cheering on Sonoma County’s local team, Cardinal Newman, I became curious:

Given that Cardinal Newman and Marin Catholic were in the semifinals, how did the game end up at Rancho Cotate’s stadium? 

In an interview Monday, Gil Lemmon of the North Coast Section (NCS), provided insight:

He said it has been the policy since 1998 for the North Coast Section (NCS) to allow schools to host games through the semifinals. It assigns the game location to most geographical area of the higher seed first. In order to host a championship game a facility needs to fulfill a set of requirements established by NCS. If they don’t meet the requirements and can’t host, the offer goes to the next highest seed school. 

What are the requirements? Parking is a huge factor. The NCS wants to be sure that in a big game there is plenty of parking to accommodate the fans. There also needs to be adequate seating in the stadium. Lighting isn’t mandatory as they can play the game in the daytime, but it is preferred. And since the NCS staff is only seven people, they rely on the facilities to provide the staffing such as the game announcer, site director, ticket takers and ticket manager.

For various reasons, Marin Catholic, who was the top seeded team in the semifinals, did not meet these requirements. NCS would have chosen to play the game in the area of Marin Catholic but there wasn’t another site available in the Marin County area. San Marin High School’s facilities in Novato is also nearby but was not available. And as many are aware, Cardinal Newman High School was unable to host due to fire damage. Rancho Cotate was approximate to both teams, has great parking, good seating and in the case of questionable weather [the NCS] likes the turf. 

“So, for the good of the tournament and all factors weighed in, Rancho Cotate was the best choice. The game was always going to be at Rancho regardless of semifinal teams. Bishop O’Dowd [high school] would have travelled to Rancho Cotate, for example, [had they been in the semifinal game],” Lemmon said.

Historically, [NCS] knows the facility that will host before the bracket is even decided and as the bracket develops they adjust the location. Ultimately, they may go back to a facility they’ve reserved and canceled due to the location changing. 

Which begs another question. Who runs the show and where do the profits go? 

Rancho Cotate and Technology High School Athletic Director Scott McKeon explains, “Entities within the Cotate Rohnert Park Unified School District (CRPUSD) can use any facility in the district without paying a fee. Entities outside the district may also use the field but pay a nominal fee.” So the facilities request submitted by the NCS to use Rancho Cotate’s field drew a small fee which went to Rancho’s athletic department. 

 McKeon continues, “When a facility hosts an NCS game, all gate money, which pays for NCS approved officials, goes to the NCS.” At the championship game on December 2nd, Marin Catholic was the hosting school. So they designated officials to collect the gate fee and that money went to NCS. Rancho ran the snack bar and the profit went into Rancho’s Athletics. Security is arranged by the site director and is typically composed of school administrators, coaches, teachers and other school employees. Local law enforcement is encouraged to show up for larger games. Should there be a need for an ambulance the 911 system is utilized.