The Bishop O'Dowd High girls basketball team is hoping an online petition along with support from the community and local politicians will help revive the Dragons' season.
The defending California Interscholastic Federation Open Division champions were ranked as one of the state's top teams before being disqualified from the North Coast Section playoffs for exceeding the number of regular season games permitted.
"It was a technical mistake made by adults, and now the girls are being penalized," said parent Bob Kalmbach, who served as a team spokesman at a press conference held at the school Tuesday.
O'Dowd learned last week that it also wouldn't be allowed into the CIF Northern California Open Division regional tournament, as the CIF stated that a team must compete in its section tournament to be eligible for regional play.
The team and the school's administration maintain that the CIF doesn't explicitly state in its rules or qualifying criteria that a team must play in its sectional tournament in order to participate in the Open Division.
But NCS commissioner Gil Lemmon interpreted the rulebook differently and said he could not support O'Dowd's efforts to be included in the Open Division playoffs since it didn't participate in the section playoffs.
Now team members and their parents are trying to keep their season alive by appealing to the public. They're calling their pursuit "Dragons Rise" and have created an online petition that they plan to present to the CIF office in Sacramento later this week.
"(They) have created an appeals process where one doesn't exist," said O'Dowd principal Pam Shay. "The CIF does not have an appeals process, so once you get turned down at the section level, you have nowhere else to go."
The petition had over 4,000 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon with the goal of hitting 10,000.
"We just wanted to get the word out to everybody and get support from our community, which has been tremendous," said senior Maya Williams. "The petition was because we wanted to see physically how many people actually support us and then show that to CIF and to all the big dogs. Hopefully it will help."
Kalmbach said the team also has received support from state senators Loni Hancock and Ellen Corbett and three assembly members.
O'Dowd's petition can be accessed here: https://www.bishopodowd.org/wordpress/?p=5037