CONCORD -- The De La Salle High football team will play 10 nonleague games in the 2012 season but still receive the East Bay Athletic League's automatic bid to the North Coast Section playoffs.
The move was voted on and passed in the spring by principals of the EBAL member schools. De La Salle still will play seven games against EBAL opponents this season but will not be eligible to win the league title.
Leagues are free to award their automatic bid however they see fit, so the NCS did not play a role in the decision, according to EBAL commissioner Don Nelson.
"We enjoy competing in the EBAL and have a lot of respect for all of the programs," De La Salle athletic director Leo Lopoz said. "We look forward to another full schedule of football games this season."
The Spartans still can earn all-league honors, meaning all that will change for them is they cannot receive the league championship banner, which will go to another team. That team will have to apply for an at-large berth in the playoffs.
"De La Salle has done nothing wrong. They have not demanded anything," Nelson said. "They have been very easy to work with. Obviously they want what's right and they want their fair share, but they are no more demanding than any other team in the league."
Since joining the EBAL in 2008, De La Salle has gone 28-0 in league play. The Spartans have won those games by an average of 34.6 points. In 2011, De La Salle allowed a combined 37 points in seven league games.
"I think also it's a tribute to De La Salle. They are just that good," Livermore coach Greg Haubner said. " ... It's a point of pride in the area, but when it comes down to it, when they're in your backyard every year and you've got to play them every year, and you don't have a choice, mentally it can be pretty humbling."
California coach Eric Billeci, a De La Salle graduate, coached the Grizzlies to within a few plays of knocking off the Spartans in 2010. California has kept things the closest of any EBAL school over the past four years, losing their four meetings by an average of 20.2 points.
Had the new rule been in place in 2010, Billeci said it wouldn't have changed a thing.
"It's one of those things where if you do go 9-1 and your loss is to De La Salle, are you going to celebrate a league championship?" Billeci said. "I wouldn't think we'd be raising banners and making a bunch of T-shirts if that was the case."
Staff writer Matt Schwab contributed to this report.