March 23, 2012
CIF Executive Director Marie Ishida talks about prep sports issues, will hoops return to Power Balance, lawsuits, the value of competition, retirement

By Joe Davidson

I had a long discussion with CIF Executive Director Marie Ishida in her Sacramento office this week. At the CIF helm for 11 years and in education/administration for some 40 years, Ishida is retiring in July. Some highlights from the talk...

* Ishida said the CIF is in good health but she worries and feels for troubled school districts across the state that are bracing for budget cutbacks. She said the fear is always losing kids to other schools, for any reasons.
* On how far athletics have changed in 30 years, "it's a different ball game."
* Ishida said the same issues remain in recent decades: public schools versus private and if it's fair - and how to solve it.
* Ishida said it's far easier said than done to just dramatically introduce an Open Division or create a private school tournament to go with a public school like Texas or New York. Ishida said there has to be a positive vote by the Federated Council - 64 members strong - to pass. Still, Ishida said, "personally, I don't know if it'd pass. The concern is a once-in-a-lifetime team getting stuck in the Open Division and not winning. We are exploring ways to making regional and state championships more competitive and interesting."
* There will be a May vote in the Federated Council to decide on an Open Division concept. If it passes, it would be introduced next season.
* Ishida on her role in general, "I don't make the rules, I administer them. Do I have an influence? Yes."
* Ishida said the introduction of the regional NorCal and SoCal football games - the winners reach State Bowl games - is a great move for the CIF. An example: a Grant-De La Salle showdown, at long last, with Ishida saying, "we may never get that matchup unless it's a regional game. This would be something people would want to watch."
* Ishida said the TV Time Warner Contract boosts the CIF with an eight-figure contract over the life of the 15-year deal.
* The NorCal and state title games at Power Balance Pavilion, pretty much a staple in the state capital for 20 years, could be on the move. The existing contract expires at the end of this weekend. Bids are being entertained across the state. One place that doesn't seem likely - ever - is Oracle Arena in Oakland where the Warriors play. Ishida said Arco Arena/Power Balance has always been a good relationship - and that it could continue.
* All indications as of Friday evening are that the state tournament will return to Power Balance for another three seasons. The NorCal site could be multiple sites, depending on the May vote for the Open Division concept.
* The CIF has an annual budget of $800,000 to fight lawsuits, generally regarding transfers. Without rules and holding firm, Ishida said transfers would ruin prep sports. And without fighting them, the CIF would be trampled. Still, she is concerned as always with the amount of transfers that do happen.
* Ishida said she is troubled by club sports that tug at high school athletes. She said the appeal of prep sports is playing for your school and community, saying, "high school sports are an extremely valuable experience."
* Ishida said she is cringes at the thought of Mater Dei suing the CIF for what the school contends is unfair scrutiny and standards regarding transfers. Ishida said it is "reprehensible" that Mater Dei has a suit.
* Ishida is beyond pleased with the impact of Title IX, the law that mandated gender equity in 1972, adding, "What a difference. Kids now don't realize the impact of Title IX. That's the only thing I'm envious of - not playing high school sports with Title IX."
* Ishida said she is "very comfortable" stepping down in July. Her time has come, she said, and it's time for a fresh voice and leader. Said Ishida amid a laugh, "I get that final notice from medicare and it's 'maybe I really am that old!"
* Ishida said she wants to tour the country in an RV - clogging traffic from the fast lane. She is involved with the Habitat for Humanity where homes are built across the country for the needy.
* Ishida grew up in Strathmore in the heart of Tulare County and learned the value of work ethic on her family's tomato farm. One of four daughters, there was always work to be done, always an eye on the weather report. Said Ishida, "I can tell you everything about pruning, weeding, how a tomato seed grows into a tomato - packing, loading, shipping it to market."
* Ishida cracked that she didn't dare tell her parents she was switching from tomato growth to citrus until they were retired.
* The old tomato farm is still in the family, but is now a citrus farm with oranges and lemons. She will surely take her RV there, not to mention her Santa Cruz home.

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Bee staff writers Joe Davidson and Bill Paterson provide news, analysis and insight on the area high school sports scene in their Prep Blog. Have a question to ask them? Send them an email any time at or

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