4A, 5A state basketball tournaments to have 48-team fields

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

Ron Alexander, the district athletic director of the Poudre School District, addresses the Legislative Council on Thursday. (Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

AURORA — The state basketball tournaments in classes 5A and 4A will not be moving to 64-team fields next season. Instead, both will have 48-team fields.

The move was made by CHSAA's Legislative Council at its meeting on Thursday following a lot of discussion. For the Class 5A boys and girls basketball, that means staying put at the number of qualifiers where they have been for a number of years. In 4A, it's a 16-team expansion from the current 32-team field — but a return to the size it was at just two years ago.

"Going to 48 in 4A creates an opportunity for those schools in that classification, which will be almost exactly the same size as 5A next season," said CHSAA assistant commissioner Bert Borgmann, who oversees basketball.

When it met in February, the basketball committee sought to expand the 4A and 5A fields to 64 teams as it would allow all teams a chance to play into the postseason, something the currently exists in the 3A, 2A and 1A classifications via district play.

However, the expansion proved to be met by much resistance. A big leader of that was the Front Range League, which forwarded an amendment to keep the fields at their current size of 48 (5A) and 32 (4A) teams.

"We've consistently been looking at, 'What's best for the membership?'" Poudre Schools district athletic director Ron Alexander, who spoke on behalf of the Front Range League, said in referencing recent changes like the move to RPI and CLOC's equity realignment. "I would challenge the membership to do the same thing in defining what a state tournament should be. Sometimes I think we've worked backwards in this process."

He also pointed out that the 64-team expansion ran contrary to 5A football's recent reduction to a 16-team field.

Alexander allowed that part of that reluctance could have been from the fact that the expansion was a deemed part of the state tournament, and said his league might not have been against adding district play in 5A and 4A.

"We believe (making) the state tournament should be an honor," Alexander said.

Ultimately, the Front Range League's amendment passed, with 71 percent of the body in favor of it. It gave the 5A field 48 teams, and the 4A field 32.

But even that change was brief. Minutes later, the Jeffco League proposed an amendment which would increase the 4A fields to 48 teams. That passed, leaving both the 5A and 4A fields with an equal number of qualifiers to their state tournaments — 48 — for the 2016-17 season.

It's possible that in the future, district play would be explored at the 4A and 5A levels, Borgmann said.

However, one major hurdle to doing so is the fact that big schools do not want to cut down on the regular season, which currently stands at 23 games. So a move to districts would either require fewer regular season games, or a change to the bylaw which limits basketball to 23 regular season games. (District tournaments count toward the 23-game limit.)

"The topic of districts in 4A and 5A really ended about five years ago, but with the committee's recommendation for the 64-bracket, it brought that, along with other formats, back into the conversation for future state playoffs," Borgmann said.

Additionally, 2A amended the way it will do its regional tournaments, and will instead adopt a more geographic approach similar to how 1A handles its format.

A detailed breakdown is available here, but the key pieces are that eight fewer teams will qualify for the postseason, the addition of a third day to the tournament, and the fact that there is no guarantee that the boys and girls teams will be at the same site, although they could be at a site nearby.

Outside of basketball, the transfer rule was among big topics of discussion on Thursday.