AURORA — All playoff games in Class 5A football will now be hosted by the higher seeded team, a major change in the sport's postseason format.
The football committee voted to approve the change during its annual meeting on Thursday.
"This recognizes the hard work that it takes over the course of a season to obtain a high seed, and the minimal travel involved in 5A enables those who have earned a higher seed the opportunity to host throughout the playoffs," said CHSAA assistant commissioner Adam Bright, who administers football.
Previously, the classification had used a formula to determine who would host games after the first round, where the team with the fewest home games would host the quarterfinals and semifinals.
Now 5A playoff games will be hosted by the higher seeds, regardless of a the number of home games a team has. The exception, of course, is the championship game, which is held at Mile High.
The committee decided that because the travel wasn't that great in 5A, the rationale behind the original rule — which centered around teams having to travel in back-to-back weeks, and the expense involved — wasn't as applicable to the classification as it had been.
"In 5A, you're talking Fort Collins to Colorado Springs," said committee chair Chris Noll, the district athletic director of District 11. "You're talking the I-25 corridor."
The vote also sparked a discussion among the other classes where they considered doing the same thing. The other classes are going to bring it to their communities to find out their thoughts, specifically in 2A, 3A and 4A, where the championship games are played at neutral sites.
All recommendations from the football committee will need to be approved by the Legislative Council during its meeting in April 2020.
The committee had a long discussion about equal facilities, and a big chunk of it was spent talking about the use of drones at games.
Drones are allowed to be used, so long as the host school district approves them. There was a season-long conversation around drones, and that if one team was using it, whether or not they should be forced to give the other team the feed to create "equal facilities."
However, the committee decided that drones do not fall under the "equal facilities" requirement listed in the football bulletin.
"I think there's a difference between facility and technology," said committee member John Sullivan, the athletic director and coach at Vista PEAK. "And, to me, drones are a technology."
Added committee member Autumn Sereno, the athletic director at Green Mountain: "You can also take that to another stadium. To me, that's not a facility."
No neutral site for 1A championship.
The committee discussed having the 1A title game at a neutral site, potentially at CSU-Pueblo where it would become a double-header with the 2A game on that day.
They heard feedback from the gallery that the 1A crowds would be more inclined to travel to a home site as opposed to a neutral site in Pueblo, and they also felt that the atmosphere of the game would be hurt.
No one on the committee proposed doing so, and so the game will remain at a home site.
Discussion around minimum number of players.
The committee had a good discussion about requiring programs to have a minimum number of players in order to field a team.
One thought was to require programs to have 150% of the players that they play with on the field. That would be nine players for 6-man teams, 12 players for 8-man, and 17 players for 11-man.
The thought was that it would help address forfeits that happen late-season, as well as programs who drop their teams in the middle of the season.
According to NFHS rules, teams must begin with the minimum number of players at kickoff — six in 6-man, eight in 8-man, and 11 in 11-man — but are allowed to play with less than the minimum after a game has started.
There have been situations where teams have put a player on the field for kickoff in order to begin play with the minimum number of players, and then don't play them the rest of the game because they are hurt.
"We often times had a coach in a difficult position, where he has to make a decision on who is healthy enough to play, and putting them out there just for a kickoff, then pulling him," Bright said.
Additionally, there have been a number of programs who have forfeit games late in the season due to a lack of numbers, or outright cancelled programs mid-season for the season reason.
"We are getting teams that are cancelling in the middle of the season, we are getting forfeits that are causing homecomings to be cancelled, senior nights to be cancelled," Bright said.
Ultimately, no one on the committee made a motion to bring the proposal up for a vote, so no minimum will be imposed.
- The leagues for the 2020 and 2021 seasons were approved by the Board of Directors in June, and were not discussed at the football committee meeting on Thursday.
- At that same meeting, the Board approved a 24-team playoff for 4A ahead of its 2020 and 2021 seasons. This means they will move to the same schedule as 5A, with no bye week during the regular season.
- 6-man moved to be in line with 1A-5A in how they seed their state playoffs, using the Coaches Poll, RPI, MaxPreps and Packard Rankings in a combined format. 8-man is going to examine doing the same thing and possibly amend the report at Legislative Council after reaching out to its schools.
- Rifle coach/AD Damon Wells proposed expanding the 2A bracket to 24 teams from 16. It sparked a conversation about 1A and 3A doing the same in order to have all 11-man classifications aligned. The proposal will be re-examined at next year's committee meeting for the 2022 and 2023 seasons.
- The committee will explore further addressing competitive equity over the course of the next year. "We've got to find a way to get like schools playing each other more often," Noll said.
- There will no longer be an at-large berth in the 5A football playoffs. League champions will automatically qualify, and the remainder of the field will qualify through the RPI standings. There are two exceptions: The Metro 1 and Metro 2 leagues will only be able to qualify their league champions into the playoff field. And, if the 4A team in the 5A Southern League, Pine Creek, wins the league, the highest-rated 5A team in the final RPI standings of the regular season will automatically qualify for the 5A bracket.
- The committee decided to not require all fields to have a physical play clock.