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College football: Restructure could help COC

Cougars’ level of competition won’t change, but foes may

Posted: December 27, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: December 27, 2011 1:55 a.m.

COC quarterback Chris Rini (5) stiff-arms Citrus linebacker Jesse Tauiliili on Sept. 17 at Citrus College. The Cougars are part of a restructuring of junior college football in Southern California that will take place in 2012.

 

Junior college football is going through yet another structure change headed into next season.

This one could be positive for College of the Canyons.

Starting with the 2012 season, community college football teams in Southern California will be switching from a three-tier to a two-tier format, according to COC head football coach Garett Tujague, who received an email last week regarding the restructure.

For the past two seasons, the region’s 37 junior college football teams have competed in three separate divisions: the National, Central and American Divisions. Those were arranged based on the level of competition by the region’s governing football body, the Southern California Football Association.

COC is in the National Division, which is the highest of the three.

Next season, the National and Central divisions will merge into one, while the American Division will remain the same, Tujague said.

Canyons’ status in the highest level of competition will remain the same. What will change is who COC is facing.

“It gives us an opportunity to play teams that are strong so we can prove we’re still good, and it gives us the opportunity to play teams that maybe aren’t so strong so we can build morale,” Tujague said.

The top tier will again be referred to as the National Division and the lower level is to remain as the American Division, as was the case before the three-tier system was put in place in 2010.

Tujague said that each division is going to be broken up into multiple conferences based on geographic proximity.

Not only does that save money on travel costs, it can also help in the recruiting game, too.

“It’s good for me to play the schools around me because I can say, ‘Look, we beat them,’” Tujague said.

All the schools were placed in their respective divisions based on power rankings calculated by the SCFA.

Schools like Moorpark and Antelope Valley, which previously played in the Central Division, will potentially join COC in the same conference.

Under the three-tier format, two automatic Southern California playoff bids were given to the winners of the two National Division conferences.

The other two playoff spots were determined by the SCFA’s power ranking system, which was the source of some controversy from Central Division teams that felt they deserved a better shot at the postseason.

Teams like COC had their own complaints, Tujague said.

He argues that Canyons has to play a much more difficult schedule, yet Central Division teams could still make the playoffs.

“For the record, College of the Canyons will play anybody, anytime, anywhere, period,” Tujague said of the tough schedule. “But when I have 65 (high) schools I can recruit from and I’m playing coaches that have 160 schools they can recruit from ... I can play those guys, but the following Saturday we’re going to be limping into the game.”

COC has learned the hard way that playing in the top division can take its toll.

In two years in the three-tier format, the Cougars have gone a combined 10-11, including a 4-6 mark this season.

It was the first time since 1979 COC finished with a losing record.

With the format change, the hope is that balance will be restored to junior college football in Southern California.

That’s not to say COC is trying to take the easy way out.

“It’s never like we were stepping down or bowing down to anybody,” Tujague said. “That’s not the message.”

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