Mailbag: On the classification system, spring softball, recruiting officials, RPI

EDITOR'S NOTE: Opinions in this Mailbag do not reflect an official viewpoint of CHSAA.

In this installment of the Mailbag, we tackle the questions about the classification system, moving softball to the spring, recruiting officials, and (of course) RPI.

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The CLOC committee is involved in creating the classification system. (Dan Mohrmann/

I am interested in understanding how the classification process works. It does not seem to me to be strictly an enrollment issue. How can a school participate in one class for one sport and another class for a different sport?

— Tom

The classification system, to me, is one of the biggest issues CHSAA is facing right now.

First, here's a direct answer to your question: Right now, the classes are set by-and-large by enrollment, with a very small amount of teams playing up (by choice) or down (due to lack of success) a class.

Schools can have different teams in different classes because of that reason, but also because sports have a differing number of classes. For example, football has seven classes, but boys soccer has three. The enrollment cutoffs are different for those sports. (Note that this isn't always true, as basketball, which has five classes, has the same cutoffs as soccer.)

With the move to equally balancing teams in classes, individual sports vary even more.

I hold a firm belief that enrollment alone does not give enough of a picture to determine classes. I think there should be some weight given to success, or lack thereof, which would probably do a better job at placing programs in a classification.

For example, a program that has won six-straight tennis championships in 4A probably ought to move up to 5A. A football team that has gone 0-10 for three straight years in 3A is probably better suited playing 2A.

Those are, obviously, extreme examples. I think this type of success-based addition to the classification system should be more nuanced, taking into account things like regular season wins, playoff appearances, and the levels of postseason reached.

Of course, this may have the side effect of placing more programs of the same school into different classifications. However, I really think that's OK.

Recently, a small step was taken in this direction: The CHSAA staff visited with members of the California Interscholastic Federation, and received a briefing on their classification system. That system does take success (or lack of it) into account, tackling competitive equity.

Here's an example from what the CIF released this past June.

So, stay tuned.

Pomona Douglas County Softball

(Renee Bourcier/

Any discussion of moving softball to spring season like many other states and college? Does CHSAA realize the number of female athletes that compete in both softball and volleyball and are forced to choose one sport in high school?

Volleyball is clearly a fall sport and softball is clearly a spring sport in college which makes since for alignment.

— Dustin, Aurora

Yes, actually. I was surprised to learn this.

A survey was created about this topic by Kit Carson School District superintendent Robert Framel, and it went out to all schools. His survey indicated the following:

  • Most of the 5A, 4A and 3A schools were not in favor of a move to the spring. In 5A and 4A, just 15 percent of schools were in favor of the move, while 39.4 percent of 3A schools were in favor of a move.
  • Results were slightly more mixed from 1A and 2A (though there is no softball at that level; any schools parcipating here play 3A). In 2A, nine of the 23 surveyed responded that they did want a move, while nine of the 17 surveyed in 1A indicated the same.

Because of these survey results, it is my understanding that the softball committee will hear a proposal to create a 2A softball season in the spring when that committee meets on Nov. 17. That would leave 5A, 4A and 3A playing in the fall.

This is just my opinion, but I believe that would be a bad move. We should not be splitting the same sport into different seasons.

Additionally, a move to a spring season would create other concerns, such as a lack of umpires, the pool of which crosses over from both high school baseball and from college softball (both played in the spring). Also, indications are that it would be very difficult to secure Aurora Sports Park in the spring. So the state tournaments would have to find a similar facility elsewhere.

As far as athletes having to choose one sport over another, that would happen even in the spring with girls sports like track, lacrosse, and soccer.

Littleton Gateway football officials

(Michael Hankins/

With Paul Angelico and Tom Robinson retiring at the end of the school year, will there be an emphasis on the new regime to recruit newer and better officials for all sports?

Specifically, at the football level, there is a major shortage of officials and a big reason for that is Colorado ranks third-to-last in the country in terms of what officials are paid — and it’s likely like that across all sports.

Isn't it time for CHSAA — and its member schools and districts — to get serious about getting better officials, and that would require a financial commitment that has been lagging for decades?

— C.J. T., Denver

There have been strides made in this area, as recently as this season, and it is now being looked at every two-year cycle. I believe many schools are starting to take action on this.

I asked Tom Robinson, our officials liaison, about this:

"We might be third in pay, but I'm certain we're also near the bottom in terms of educational funds, as well," he said. "So there's a correlation."

Still, Robinson acknowledged that this was an issue, and that he was working on it.

"I think that's a problem," he said, "but I also think there are other factors. Things like fan abuse and career changes are equally in the mix.

"There's been a change in the paradigm recently, where we're no longer strictly getting our officials from the educational world," Robinson continued. "We're now getting people from all walks of life."

As you mention, he is retiring, and we are going to miss him in that office. But I think he wants to have a structure in place to recruit officials before he leaves.

For example, he mentioned an "Each One, Teach One" program where every current official becomes a mentor and helps recruit another official.

Here's another idea: We've got thousands of great "refs" in the stands at games. Why not recruit them?

I enjoyed reading your proposed changes to the RPI article. I myself have struggled with your own winning percentage holding as much weight as your OOWP and both far behind OWP.

Will basketball consider switching the formula in time for this season?

— Zach, Swink

Thank you, I appreciate that, and thank you for reading.

I honestly do not know if basketball can switch before the winter season, but I will say this: it's probably best to not get your hopes up.

But also remember that basketball has 19-23 games, so that will help. Again, the problem in football is by-and-large being caused by the relatively small amount of games.

The spring season may be more realistic.

Silver Creek football team

(Morgan Dzak/

When Silver Creek and Longmont played last week in football, Silver Creek won and stayed fourth in RPI yet Longmont lost and moved up to fifth in RPI.

How is this possible, and why does it seem that RPI rewards teams for losing to great teams? Doesn't that seem a bit counter-intuitive?

— Jamal, Longmont

This is one of the biggest misconceptions about RPI: It is not a game-to-game rating system, like a coaches poll. It rates teams based on their entire season.

So what likely happened in this instance is that Silver Creek already had a solid strength-of-schedule rating, and it was relatively unchanged by the fact that the Raptors played Longmont. In Longmont's case, it appears to have helped the Trojans' SOS, and they moved up as a result.

Now to your second point, we've gotten some feedback from our schools (and I agree) that the OWP column is weighted too much, especially for a sport like football, with only 10 games. I believe that will be addressed prior to next season.

Ralston Valley Broomfield girls basketball generic

(Kevin Keyser/

Will the RPI be used in women's hoops and will it be used to seed the teams for the state playoffs? If not, is only being used to select the overall field of playoff teams?

— Kevin, Greenwood Village

Hot off the digital press! It's our basketball bulletin. See pages 24-30 for qualifying formats.

This answer applies to both girls and boys basketball: Each class has a slightly different way of approaching this, but the RPI will be the primary factor in seeding in all classes, adjusting to accommodate geography and avoid first-round matchups where possible.

There are exceptions, like 3A, where seeds 1-7 will be district champions.

5A girls golf state tournament generic Denver skyline

(Ryan Casey/

Is there a reason why CHSAA does not announce where the girls golf regional and state tournaments will be played at the beginning of the school year?

— Hank P., Golden

They typically are announced at that time, but not always.

I think, more than any other sport, golf's state tournament sites are unique because it is so difficult to find a host course, as well as a school willing to serve as a host.

There are other factors to consider, like how the sites rotate on a geographic basis most of the time, so that can make it even more difficult to secure a course.

As a result, the announcement of sites can at times take longer than other sports.

So rugby is getting bigger and better in Colorado, has there been any mention to add boys and girls rugby league and rugby union to high school programs?

The game is becoming much popular and athletes from other sports are participating making the game much more competitive.

— Elie T., Aurora

This is something we tackled in a previous Mailbag, but, no there has not been much movement. See this link for more on where it stands.