Football committee recommends new alignment, expanding 5A to 24-team playoff

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

AURORA — During a busy meeting on Tuesday, the football committee formally made its league alignment recommendations, and also discussed changes to the postseason format and practice schedule.

The 15-member committee — made up of two representatives of each classification, as well as chair Mike Krueger — walked through alignment proposals for all seven classes in front of a packed meeting space.

Ultimately, they settled on one recommendation per class. Those alignments can be found on the 2018 and 2019 football alignment page.

All recommendations from the football committee must be approved by the Legislative Council at its January meeting.

Some highlights on the alignment:

• Three schools (Alameda, Mitchell and Hinkley) were moved down a classification by the committee, using the latitude given them according to bylaw 1500.1

They considered seven schools under this process, but settled on the three, as they most closely fit the criteria as laid out in bylaw 1500.21.

• Most classes have 42 schools. The ones that don't: 5A (40), 1A (40), 8-man (43), and 6-man (32).

• The committee really tried to get back to a more traditional league alignment.

"We heard loudly from our membership that we want more traditional leagues, and play traditional neighborhood rivals," Krueger said at the beginning of the meeting.

With that in mind, many leagues relied heavily on geography. For example: the five Pueblo schools are grouped together with Durango in 3A; some school districts, such as Jeffco and Cherry Creek, were kept together where possible in 5A.

• 5A took a new approach to its alignment as it moved away from the waterfall format with an eye toward saving struggling programs.

"We have to do something with some programs, or we're going to flat lose some programs," said Chris Noll, the Doherty athletic director who is a 5A representative.

So the football committee identified and separated out 10 teams and placed them in a league on their own. The remaining 30 teams were split into six-team leagues.

There was also a lot of discussion about the difficulty of scheduling non-conference games in 5A, and some even asked if CHSAA could schedule the non-league slate.

"We do see this as a very significant issue," Krueger said. "If we don't step up and start to help our sister schools (schedule), there will be movement toward that mandate.

"As badly as we want to mandate that, the other side is people want the flexibility to schedule how they want," he added.

Playoff and practice changes

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

The committee also tackled a number of items outside of alignment on Tuesday. Among them:

•  The committee proposed expanding the 5A football field from 16 to 24 teams. The 5A alignment was created with this change in mind.

All six league champions, including the league of 10, would receive an automatic bid to the playoffs. The next 17 qualifiers would come from the final RPI standings of the regular season, with the exception of the league of 10.

The final playoff spot would be an at-large bid as determined by the seeding committee, using the criteria they will use to seed the tournament — including, but not limited to, things like RPI standing, head to head and strength of schedule.

• Classes 4A through 8-man changed their seeding criteria to where a conference champion in the top-10 of the seeded playoff bracket will host in Round 1, unless they are playing another league champion. In that case, the higher seed will host. Once seeded, the seeds of the teams will not change, regardless of who hosts the game.

For example, if the No. 10 seed is a league champion but the No. 7 is not, the No. 10 team would host the first-round game. If both are league champions, the No. 7 would host.

• The committee proposed expanding 6-man from an 8-week to a 9-week schedule. This would allow some teams to play a nine-game regular season, if they so choose.

• They discussed changing the date the teams can start practice. A proposal will come to the Legislative Council from the Centennial League which recommends that football follow the NFHS calendar.

That would mean practice in 2018 could start on Aug. 6 as opposed to Aug. 13. The football committee supports the proposal.

In essence, the proposal would add another week of practice on the front-end of the schedule. Playoff dates would be unaffected, and the season would start on Aug. 23-25, with a scrimmage date available on Aug. 16-18.

This would give all classes, save for 5A, the opportunity to have a bye week during the regular season.

• In conjunction with the practice discussion, the committee recommended changes to how teams practice during the start of practice. The recommended doing away with two-a-day practices.

The practice schedule would start with three days of helmets only, two days of pads and limited contact, and then full pads and full contact on the sixth day of practice. Currently, full contact is on the fourth day.