Football committee sets league alignment, tweaks 5A football playoffs

(Ryan Casey/

The football committee met on Thursday. (Ryan Casey/

AURORA -- The Centennial League just got even tougher.

Valor Christian, a five-time defending champion, is set to join the Centennial following Thursday's football committee meeting. Final approval on all league alignment changes needs to come at January's legislative council meeting. (See the recommended alignment.)

"We're just happy for our kids and our community that we can be in a league where we can have some rivalries and be a good contributing member," said Brian Kula, assistant athletic director at Valor Christian. "It's a tough league. That'll be something we have to prepare well for, and I just think it's a great bunch of schools with great leadership. We're excited to be a part of that."

The committee adopted Option E from the 5A alignment proposals, citing its inclusion of Grand Junction and Fruita Monument in Metro-area leagues, as well as the competitive balance created by the Continental North and Continental South leagues.

Option E, along with four of the five other 5A proposals, included moving Valor from an independent to the Centennial League. The lone proposal that didn't do that was an outside-the-box approach proposed by the Centennial which would have placed teams in leagues based on a so-called "waterfall" system.

The waterfall system would have ranked teams based upon Wild Card points standings over the past two seasons. The top seven teams by that criteria would have been placed into separate leagues. Then, remaining teams would be placed into conferences on a snaked order. So, the No. 8 team would go with No. 7, No. 9 with No. 6, No. 10 with No. 5, and so on.

However, the committee didn't feel comfortable with the waterfall proposal as it would have completely restructured the alignment. Wanting to keep tradition intact, the committee decided to not consider the proposal further.

Eventually, following continued discussion, the committee settled on Option E -- a major point of which was moving Grand Junction and Fruita Monument into Metro-area leagues. That move was made necessary after the Southwestern League -- which traditionally combines 4A and 5A schools -- was left with only four schools following the Classifciation and League Organizing Committee's meeting in mid-November. The idea of moving to Front Range leagues was originally suggested by Paul Cain, president of Southwestern League.

"That was really encouraging to see schools include (teams from) the Western Slope without hesitation," CHSAA commissioner Paul Angelico said during the meeting.

The reorganization of the Continental and Pioneer leagues into the Continental North and Continental South was also important to the committee. In part, the reorganization brought the Highlands Ranch-area schools (Highlands Ranch, Mountain Vista, ThunderRidge) together, while also putting the Parker schools (Chaparral, Legend) and Castle Rock schools (Castle View, Douglas County) in the same league.

Other changes from the current alignment in 5A see Boulder-area rivals Fairview and Boulder heading into separate leagues, as well as the formation of the Jeffco League with Arvada West, Bear Creek, Chatfield, Columbine, Lakewood, Pomona, Ralston Valley and Mullen.

The new South Metro League was formed on the framework of the old Aurora League and has Smoky Hill joining from the Centennial, Arapahoe from the now-defunct Super 6, Heritage from the Pioneer, and Grand Junction from the former Southwest.

In the new Flatirons League are Boulder, Brighton, Denver East, Montbello, Northglenn, Prairie View, Thornton and Westminster.

The football committee selected Option B for the 4A enrollment. That moved Western Slope-area teams Montrose and Durango into Metro-area leagues.

"We put in more hours than ever before," assistant commissioner Harry Waterman told the committee at the end of the meeting. "You guys put in a lot of work. This was a monumental task."

Other selections for alignment by the football committee:

5A football playoffs headed to a selection committee

The 5A football playoff field will be set by be a selection committee going forward, so long as the change is approved at January's legislative council meeting.

During the classification breakout session of the football committee meeting, the decision was made to move away from selecting the 32-team field strictly on Wild Card points. Instead, 5A football is proposing a move to a selection committee made up of seven administrators -- one from each league. No coaches will be allowed on the selection committee.

The criteria to be used by that selection committee, in no particular order:

  • Wild Card points
  • Head-to-head
  • Common opponents
  • Coaches poll
  • Strength of schedule
  • Overall record
  • League standings

Additionally, 5A football is seeking to tweak the way hosting is determined in the postseason. Currently, the higher seed hosts in the first round, but thereafter, the team with the fewest home games to that point hosts. If the number of home games are equal, the higher seed hosts.

Instead, 5A football would have the higher seed host playoff games unless the lower seed hasn't yet hosted a playoff game. (The higher seed would continue to host first round games.)

Elsewhere, in the other classes:

  • 3A football will play its championship game at the home of the higher seed, regardless of the number of home playoff games to that point.
  • 8-man is doing away with cross-over games as a way of determining postseason qualifiers. Instead, teams will play a nine-game regular season and get automatic playoff qualifiers based upon league finish.