Loyola football placed in CIF Southern Section Division II playoff grouping

This writer's phone has been ringing off the hook and multiple emails and text messages have been pouring in after the CIF Southern Section football playoff divisional groupings were leaked to the press yesterday before their official unveiling by the Southern Section office on Thursday.

Many Loyola alumni have expressed shock and dismay after learning that the Cubs for the first time in school history will not be included in the Large Schools/AAAA/Division I playoff grouping for the upcoming 2018 and 2019 campaigns.. The emotions are understandable, as dating back to the 1930s before private schools were allowed to participate in the Southern Section playoffs the Cubs defeated such CIF Large Schools champions as L.B. Poly and Redondo Union in non-league games. The major schools division in CIF Southern Section football over the years has been named Large Schools, AAAA, Big Five Conference and Division I.

In the eight decades since private schools began competing in the Southern Section playoffs, Loyola played in the Large Schools/AAAA/Division I playoff division championship game twelve times, winning major schools titles in 1962 (AAAA), 1963 (AAAA), 1975 (AAAA and acclaimed National High School Champions by the National Sports News Service), 1990 (Div. I), 2003 (Div. I) and 2005 (Div. I) and runner-up plaques in 1946 (Large Schools), 1964 (AAAA), 1992 (Div. I), 1995 (Div. I), 1996 (Div. I) and 2000 (Div. I). 

Following the 2005 retirement of legendary head coach STEVE GRADY '63, the only man in state history to have been named both State Player-of-the-Year (1963) and State Coach-of-the-Year (2003), the storied Cub program's culture began to erode - until alumnus Rick Pedroarias '84 took over the reins as the steward of Cub Football in the spring of 2017. As the adage goes, "Rome wasn't built in a day." But Pedroarias is determined to get the program back to championship level as expeditiously as possible, and his first year efforts showed substantial progress in both the culture and physicality departments.

Complicating matters, in the interim between Grady's retirement and the hiring of Coach RICK PEDROARIAS, schools who shall remained unnamed, but for whom the education of athletes is less important than final scores on Friday nights, have taken in transfers (including seniors) on a rampant basis, provided significant tuition relief to the parents of football players and otherwise done their work within the realm of questionable win-at-all-costs values. Those practices have made the going tough for Loyola, whose primary mission is to prepare student athletes for college and beyond.

While it is disappointing to take a step down in division as the result of competitive equity power rankings which take a number of factors into consideration (including win-loss records and participation in the playoffs), it actually may prove to be a good thing in terms of the continued rebooting of the program under the solid guidance and tireless work of Coach Pedroarias and his staff.

Obviously, the Division II playoff field is not as monstrous as that of D-I, but it could provide an opportunity to regenerate the winning culture that predominated over the course of more than 100 years of interscholastic competition. Perhaps when the next round of playoff groupings are announced in the spring of 2020, the Cubs will be back in D-I.

To those who have called, emailed and texted this writer, you may wish to share with the school's administration how important Cub Football is to you personally and to the heart, soul and tradition of Loyola High School.