Football committee recommends all classes move to 16-team playoff fields

(Ryan Casey/

The football committee met on Thursday. (Ryan Casey/

AURORA — It may have been the smoothest, and most quiet, football committee meeting in CHSAA history.

Normally a raucous affair more closely resembling the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Thursday's meeting felt more like a formality, as much of the groundwork had been laid over the course of a dozen or so meetings over the past year.

"This is the smoothest this has gone in 30 years," said CHSAA commissioner Paul Angelico.

As committee chair Mike Krueger put it: "This has been a total team effort of global thinkers."

The end result of Thursday's meeting is a recommendation that each classification have a 16-team playoff bracket, 6-man through 5A.

"We wanted things to look more alike than different," said CHSAA assistant commissioner Harry Waterman, who oversees football. "And having everyone with relatively equal teams per class, there was no need to have one of them at 32 or eight."

The 15-person committee voted to unanimously approve all measures that came before them on Thursday. Included was a single alignment proposal for each class, as well as postseason and seeding criteria.

The alignment proposals were released by the CHSAA office last month, and can be found here. All recommendations need to be approved by the Legislative Council at its meeting in January.

Each classification would use a Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) formula to help determine its postseason field. In 5A, the leagues were waterfalled based upon each team's two-year average in the RPI in order to balance the divisions. That recommendation came out of an August meeting of the football committee, but was formally voted upon and agreed to on Thursday.

With that change, 5A football would also use reduce its postseason field from 32 to 16 teams. And the regular season would return to 10 games.

"The main options on the table were staying with the status quo, or moving to a 16-team bracket," said Eric Gustafson, the athletic director at Horizon who serves as a 5A rep on the committee. "There was some discussion about a 24-team bracket, but that didn't last long because teams wouldn't get the Week 10 games back anyway.

"With the RPI and the waterfall, and you throw in there that the Grand Junction schools weren't in there any more, 5A had a pretty unique opportunity to have balance."

Added Robbie Owens, the coach at Grand Junction who is the other 5A rep: "5A kind of had a perfect storm."

In addition, the football committee named each of the seven conferences. Up to this point, they had simply been referred to as "Conference A," "Conference B," and so on. Each were named after 14ers: Mt. Elbert, Mt. Massive, Mt. Lincoln, Mt. Wilson, Mt. Evans, Mt. Antero, and Mt. Cameron.

The 4A alignment is also a waterfall, though it was done geographically in three regions: North, South and Metro.

For 6-man, it means the so-called crossover games are now playoff games, giving the classification a 16-team bracket. Teams would not be reseeded when the field gets to eight, as they have been in the past.

It marks a major shift in philosophy for the sport.

"This process started a year ago at this time," Waterman said. "When we were there, we decided we wanted this process to look different. We wanted to follow more along the lines of what CLOC does. So we started with that framework, and we met a lot of times. We've met with league czars, we've brought individual classes to our offices, and conducted surveys.

"We've never had more involvement with schools throughout this process ever before," Waterman added. "This was truly a shared decision-making model."

As far as the postseason field and seeding goes, the committee recommended:

  • Conference champions automatically qualify for the field. If a conference champion is outside of the top 16 in the final RPI, that conference champion would still make the field.
  • If a conference champion is already within the top 16, that champion would be guaranteed a top-8 seed.
  • The remaining spots in each classification would be filled by the final RPI standings of the regular season.
  • The use of a seeding committee in each classification. One member of each conference would sit on the committee, but a coach would not be allowed to be a representative.
  • The seeding committee would use the following factors: Geography, RPI, common opponents and head-to-head games.
  • Conference opponents would not be paired in first-round games.
  • When seeding, all committees would use a process modeled after a procedure 8-man is already doing: All conference champions are placed on a board for consideration, and then determine a No. 1 overall seed. The No. 1 overall seed goes on the bracket. The No. 2 team from the same conference would then go up on a board along with the other conference champions, and the seeding committee would then determine the No. 2 overall seed. The next-highest finisher from the conference of the No. 2 seed would put on a board for consideration. This process would continue until all 16 teams are seeded.


  • The football committee discussed host sites for the 3A championship game, especially a concern that the current requirement for 2,500 capacity may not be big enough. There was discussion about whether or not to move back to a neutral site that would guarantee a bigger capacity. Ultimately, they decided to up the capacity requirement for a site to host a 3A championship game to 5,000 people.
  • The 2016 season will begin with practice on Aug. 15. Zero Week will be Aug. 25. That puts Week 1 on Sept. 1.
  • Championship dates next season: Nov. 19 (6-man), Nov. 26 (8-man, 1A, 2A), and Dec. 4 (3A, 4A, 5A).