AURORA — The softball committee is recommending some changes to regionals, namely an expansion of the Class 3A field, and a new seeding criteria.
During their meeting this week, the committee proposed an expansion of the 3A regional field from 24 to 32 teams, which would bring it in line with the bracket size in 4A and 5A. The 3A classification is growing to nearly 50 teams next cycle, up from 37 this past cycle.
"CLOC bylaws allowed us to better balance the schools in each of softball's three classifications," said CHSAA assistant commissioner Bert Borgmann, who oversees softball. "The committee determined that a 32-team bracket served that classification better than the previous 24-team bracket, and aligns it with 4A and 5A."
The committee also proposed a change to automatic qualifiers, where only teams that win their leagues outright will automatically qualify for the field. This includes teams in mixed-classification leagues.
For example, in the Denver Prep League, there are two 5A teams and seven 4A teams. If one of the 5A teams win the league, they will automatically qualify for the 5A bracket, and no 4A team will be an automatic qualifier. This is similar to a process that is used in volleyball.
Previously, both a league champion and runner-up had automatically qualified if a league had more than six teams.
"The committee wanted to establish a consistent philosophy for qualifiers in all three classifications," Borgmann said. "In doing so, they addressed multi-classification leagues, and established the same qualifying format for all three classes. In order to be an automatic qualifier, a school must win their league outright."
And the committee also recommended a change to how regional seeding is done, and proposed moving toward a three-pronged approach by using the RPI standings, MaxPreps rankings and the CHSAANow coaches poll in a combined formula where each data point is equally weighted.
Field hockey, volleyball and 1A basketball have all recommended a similar approach during their recent committee meetings, and football used four data points to seed its 1A-5A playoffs this past season.
"The committee felt strongly that additional information outside of RPI was necessary for seeding, and is recommending the same seeding format being recommended by volleyball," Borgmann said.
After the automatic qualifiers are determined, the rest of the 32 regional qualifiers will continue to be set by solely the RPI standings.
The state seeding criteria remains the same, with the regional champions each earning a top eight seed, and seeded according to their pre-regional seed. The eight second-place finishers at the regions will be seeded Nos. 9-16 based upon their pre-regional seed.
All changes need to be approved by the Legislative Council at their meeting in April.