The sign on the outside of the athletic training center adjacent to Bishop Gorman’s football field celebrates the team’s 2014 national football championship.
And after the Gaels beat Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) 30-16 on Friday to complete the out-of-state portion of their schedule with a 6-0 record, the team seemingly cemented itself atop the national rankings again.
But Gorman officials probably should hold off on taking bids to build another sign. Because even if the Gaels win out and claim a seventh consecutive state championship, Gorman could end up behind another national power when the season ends.
Welcome to the world of national high school sports rankings.
“There are some other California teams that conceivably could bypass them if the teams that are ranked high end up winning state,” said Jim Halley, who puts together the national rankings for USA Today.
Halley said he talks to coaches and players, watches as many as four games on a Friday night via television and Internet, and checks out as much local coverage of top teams as he can as he tries to figure out who to put in the top 25. He said he’s been ranking teams for USA Today for eight years.
“Ultimately, I have to make the decision,” Halley said. “That’s different than a poll or like a computer ranking, which is relying on raw data.”
Halley currently has the Gaels No. 1 with St. John Bosco of Bellflower, Calif., No. 2. But unlike last year where Gorman vaulted to No. 1 with a win over the Braves, the teams won’t face each other this season.
Instead, Halley and others who put together national rankings must figure out how much weight to give teams for their wins.
“We place a great deal of strength in schedule, because frankly, there’s a lot of undefeated teams,” Halley said. “I can’t rank them all. I have to rely on teams that actually play other known, quantifiable teams that I know are good.”
That’s how Gorman has managed to move to No. 1 this season. The Gaels’ top win thus far came against Bingham (Utah), ranked No. 22 by USA Today. Gorman also has victories over highly respected programs Chandler (Ariz.), Bellevue (Wash.) and Long Beach Poly (Calif.). Don Bosco fell to 4-3 after losing to Gorman, but the Ironmen claimed mythical national titles in 2009 and 2011.
But the remaining strength of schedule also could be how a team like St. John Bosco could pass the Gaels by season’s end, even if Gorman doesn’t drop a game on the field. The Gaels haven’t lost to a Nevada school since 2008.
“Obviously it might carry more weight because of who they would have to beat to get there,” Halley said of a potential St. John Bosco state title. “They would have to beat some ranked teams to win state. All of this is conjecture, because it all depends on how they win those games.”
Halley also mentioned Trinity (Texas) as a possible suitor for the national title, even though he currently has the Trojans ranked No. 10. But Trinity handed No. 11 De La Salle (Calif.) its only loss this season. To win state, Trinity would probably have to beat No. 3 Allen, so a Texas title combined with De La Salle winning state in California could force a shakeup atop the rankings.
But as the team currently at No. 1, Gorman holds at least a slight edge.
“To a certain extent, if they win out and win out the way they’ve been winning, they control as much as they can control,” Halley said.
In USA Today’s own computer ranking, Gorman is No. 2 behind St. John Bosco. PrepNation.com and NationalHSFootball.com also have St. John Bosco No. 1 and the Gaels No. 2, so who your national champion is depends entirely on which ranking you prefer.
And ultimately, Halley cautions fans not to take any set of rankings as gospel.
“I hope people don’t take them too seriously,” Halley said. “It is fun for people to argue, and I try to give them the strongest argument possible for who the top teams are.”
Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at 702-380-4587 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @DamonSeiters