Football committee recommends the addition of Class 6A, and changes to the postseason

Pueblo South Roosevelt football

(Barry Smith)

Class 6A may once again be part of football's future.

During their annual meeting on Thursday, the football committee voted to recommend the addition of an eighth classification. This recommendation will need to be voted upon and approved by the Legislative Council this spring in order to be implemented.

If approved there, 6A would join the other seven classes — 5A, 4A, 3A, 2A, 1A, 8-man, and 6-man — in the fall of 2022.

"I think it's a start to the process," said committee member Bruce Grose, the athletic director at Vista Ridge, during discussion. "It's the start of creating classifications that are like programs, and not just [enrollment] numbers. All along, we've divided pretty much just by numbers, and I think we need to reevaluate that process. I think this is the right step forward to create more equity."

CHSAA assistant commissioner Adam Bright mentioned that his overarching goal for football is to "figure out how we can have like programs competing against one another, and create some equity amongst our classifications."

"It's not simply about the number of kids that walk in the door," Bright added. "Let's look at programs, and like programs."

Football has had a 6A classification before, from 1990-93, but this would look different for a number of reasons, most notable that it would be larger than it was back then, which will reduce the size of all classes — and not just large schools.

With 287 schools declaring that they will have football teams in 2022, it means each classification could be comprised of roughly 36 teams or so. Currently, they are in the 40-42 range.

Additionally, the membership has empowered the CHSAA office in recent years with the ability to classify schools with criteria other than just the traditional factor of enrollment. This includes factors such as on-field success of programs, participation rate, geography, enrollment trend, and socioeconomics of school's population.

"Adding the 6A classification gives us the platform ... to really reinvent football and allow for that competitive equity that we keep talking about. I think this is a step in the right direction," said Steamboat Springs athletic director Luke DeWolfe, a committee member who is also on the CHSAA Board of Directors.

Said committee chair Chris Noll, the district athletic director for District 11 in Colorado Springs: "For the last 6 or 7 years, we continue to talk about the same problem, and we continue to kick the can down the road. ... We've talked a lot today about Championship Weekend, and 'state championship this,' and 'league champion that' — I think we also have to focus a little bit of our time on those teams that struggle."

Added committee member Ryan Goddard, the coach at Pueblo South: "Looking at this globally, I think our biggest problem across the state in each classification is our top-8 teams in each classification and the bottom-8 teams in each classification are nowhere near each other. Is it how we classify teams, or how our classifications are structured? I think 'both' answers that question."

Other sports, such as basketball and volleyball, are also considering whether not to to add a Class 6A in the near future.

The idea of 6A football has been brought up a few times in recent years. Various proposals to add an eighth classification were shot down at Legislative Council in 2015 and again in 2019. It was also discussed in 2017, but no proposal materialized.

It is worth noting, however, that the 2015 and 2019 proposals looked much different than this current plan. In 2019, for example, the 6A classification would have been created solely for the postseason.

And, perhaps most notably, in both 2015 and 2019, the football committee not only did not endorse or recommend the plans, but instead actively spoke out against them.

Postseason

The football committee made a series of moves that sets the sport up to have all championship games on one weekend. It also opens the potential for a single site to host all championship games in the future — something that was done this past fall for the first time in the sport's history, and has been met with great enthusiasm around the state.

First, they voted to have a 10-week regular season in all classes, with each class having the option of playing 9 or 10 games. Then, they voted to have the same number of playoff qualifiers in each classification.

"I think they should all be equal," said committee member Greg Jones, the athletic director at Monte Vista. "If everybody's the same across the board, it goes along with what we just did with 6A."

Following a long discussion, the committee voted to have each classification have 24 teams make the postseason.

"If we're talking about kids, kids want that experience, kids want to be part of something," said committee member Marty Tonjes, the athletic director at Horizon. "If it's what's best for kids, we should create opportunity for kids."

Currently, 5A and 4A have 24 qualifiers, while 6-man through 3A have 16 teams make the postseason. In the past, there had been three weekends of state championship games.

Finally, the football committee also passed a motion to have semifinal games hosted by the higher seed in the semifinals, and championship games at neutral sites in all classes.

Seeding will be done by the CHSAA Seeding Index: CHSAA RPI, MaxPreps Rankings, Packard Rankings and the CHSAANow coaches poll. Teams can only be moved due to geography.

As with 6A, these recommendations need to be approved by the Legislative Council in order to take effect. If approved, these changes would take effect in 2022.

Fall 2021 championship sites

Following overwhelming positive feedback about a single-site state championship, the committee moved to have the 6-man, 8-man, 1A and 2A title games at CSU-Pueblo for the fall 2021 season. Those games are scheduled for the weekend of Nov. 27.

"There was a lot of discussion and positivity about how each game had their own moment and their own spotlight," Goddard said.

Added Regis Jesuit coach Danny Filleman, another committee member: "It just makes that state championship a little more special for those kids and players."

The 3A game will remain at CSU-Pueblo the following weekend, on Dec. 4. And 4A and 5A are set to return to Mile High that same date.

Going forward, "we will explore all options" for a single-site state championship for all games, Bright said.

Earlier, the committee voted to add a 10th game in 6-man for the 2021 season, so that the alignment of championship games with 2A, 1A, and 8-man would be possible.

Summer camps

With 48 schools set to play football this spring in Season C, the decision was made to change the usual 10-day summer contact camps to an extra week of practice in the fall.

There was concern from the national Sports Medicine Advisory Committee for states that are playing spring football seasons surrounding a lack of rest.

If approved, football teams would begin practice on Aug. 2 rather than Aug. 9, and ramp up their contact from there.

"This provides us to get the work in we would in the padded camps, but also provide our athletes who compete in the spring the chance to rest, and avoid any equity issues of some teams being allowed to have camps while others cannot," Bright said.