Pat Cruickshank, the CIF North Coast Section assistant commissioner since last August and a former athletic director at Heritage-Brentwood and San Leandro high schools, will take over as NCS Commissioner of Athletics on Aug. 1.
Cruickshank will succeed Gil Lemmon, the NCS commissioner for the last 11 years, who is retiring at the end of the 2018-2019 school year, on July 31. Lemmon has been with the section office, located in San Ramon, for 23 ½ years, and has also worked as associate commissioner, assistant commissioner, and director of operations.
The NCS Board of Managers voted unanimously at its meeting on March 29 to approve Cruickshank as the section’s next commissioner.
“Pat has a wealth of knowledge,” Lemmon said last week in a telephone interview from San Diego, where he was attending a CIF State meeting. “He knows a lot of people within North Coast Section. I think he’s going to do a great job.
“He’s all ready to begin. He has a lot of experience with North Coast Section. His time in the office, since August, he’s just growing leaps and bounds. He’s just been a terrific addition to our staff.”
Cruickshank will become just the NCS’s fourth commissioner in the last 47 years, following Paul Gaddini, Tom Ehrhorn and Lemmon.
“I really wanted to do this job as assistant commissioner as well as I could,” Cruickshank said in a story from the Bay Area News Group at mercurynews.com. “I just went about doing that. But as we got closer and closer to this and I began to have conversations with some people around me and obviously had some conversations with Gil, I began to believe that this was something that I could do.
“As we had more and more conversations, I just really felt I was the right person for it. I decided to throw my hat in the ring, really with the vision of continuing on what’s been going on here. Things are in great shape in this section. We have great people that we work with. It’s an opportunity to kind of take it to a different level and be the leader that I believe that I am.”
As head coach, Cruickshank led Heritage to the 2018 NCS Division I boys basketball title.
He was San Leandro’s AD for four years and also coached basketball at Liberty.
Napa, Vintage, American Canyon, Justin-Siena, St. Helena, Calistoga, Napa Christian Campus of Education and Pacific Union College Prep are member schools of the NCS.
Lemmon has a background in sports, going back to his days as an athlete at Kennedy High-Fremont.
“I’m a little overwhelmed thinking back to my days in high school when I ran in the North Coast Section Championships and then to ultimately go to college and get your degree and teaching credential and then coach and be an athletic director and ultimately work for the organization and become the commissioner has just been really almost surreal,” Lemmon said.
“I’m honored that they trusted me. I’ve never looked at it as, ‘Oh, this is my title now.’ Your title doesn’t matter. You just have to chip in with whatever you’re doing and get the work done, because you’re always working on behalf of the student athletes. You just need to promote programs that are the best programs for competition within North Coast Section.”
Lemmon was the AD at Washington High-Fremont for 13½ years. He also volunteered on playoff seeding committees and other committees for the NCS, as well as serving as a volunteer as the head field judge for the NCS Meet of Champions in track and field.
“It was really great when a job opened up and ultimately I had an opportunity to come there as a full-time employee,” he said.
The NCS honored Lars Christensen, who is finishing up his term as past president, at its meeting on March 29.
Christensen has served as the NCS President and a member of the CIF State Federated Council. He is a former Napa High Principal (1990-2002) and former NHS Dean of Students (1988-1990). Christensen’s term on the NCS executive committee goes through the end of July.
Christensen has also served as president elect.
“He’s just been terrific,” said Lemmon. “Lars has provided great leadership. He really offered a lot to North Coast Section. We were really happy to have him as a member of our executive committee.”
Christensen is a former president of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section.
New seven-division model for NCS football playoffs
The NCS football playoffs will have a new look in 2019, with no more open division.
The section’s Board of Managers on March 29 voted 25-16-1 in approval of seven eight-team divisions, for Divisions 1 through 7.
The playoff model is still tentative and has yet to be finalized, Commissioner of Athletics Gil Lemmon said last week.
“They have adopted a seven-division model,” said Lemmon. “It’s a reduction of what we’ve had in the past. The number of teams will be less. What we have posted online right now for 2019 should stand.”
There were 69 teams that advanced to the playoffs last year. The new model calls for 56 teams to move on to playoffs.
The divisions can be viewed online at cifncs.org.
New this year will be Division 7, which includes St. Helena.
“We have what we call competitive-based divisions” that are also based on school enrollments, said Lemmon.
Each division will have three rounds of playoffs, with the champion moving on to the CIF Northern California Regional Championships, which are scheduled for Dec. 6-7.
Napa and Vintage are both in Division 2, American Canyon is in Division 3, and Justin-Siena is in Division 6.
Calistoga plays 8-man football.
The 2019 season begins on Aug. 23.
Vintage (10-3 overall, 6-0 Vine Valley Athletic League) advanced to the semifinals of the NCS Div. 1 playoffs last year. After wins over James Logan-Union City (36-0) and Antioch in double-overtime (24-21), the Crushers lost to San Ramon Valley-Danville (14-3).