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ARE YOU READY FOR EIGHT FOOTBALL STATE CHAMPIONS?
Yeah, we didn't think so.
The CIAC football committee took care of one problem last Wednesday that created another. They eliminated the 2014 quarterfinal playoff round so athletes wouldn't play three games in 10 days.
The committee didn't want to reduce the field from 32 teams, so now it will (unofficially) have eight playoff divisions next fall.
Let's try to answer some questions, and debunk a few misconceptions, that the decision caused.
■ The CIAC overreacted to the bad weather that postponed last season's Class LL final five days.
Pay attention here — the quarterfinals were eliminated for player safety, NOT because of the weather.
Next season's playoffs will be spread across two weeks, just as they have been. Athletes will only play one round each week, though. Both rounds will be held on the weekends.
■ Why did the CIAC have to make a change now?
It wanted to act on recommendations from the Connecticut State Medical Society. That and it's just good, common sense to keep athletes from playing so many games in a short period of time.
■ What was wrong with having athletes playing three games in 10 days? They've done it since a semifinal round was added in 1995.
Folks also used to drill a hole in the head to cure disease.
Most teams will play up to 13 games next season in 13 weeks.
An FCIAC team could play up to 14 games in that same 13 of weeks should it qualify for the league championship.
■ Other states play more games than Connecticut.
Other states aren't beholden to Thanksgrabbing Day football like our state, either.
Ohio ended its 2013 regular season on Nov. 1. Four weeks of playoffs followed.
Texas started its season and allowed its teams to play a maximum of 10 games over 11 weeks, ending the weekend of Nov. 9. It had six weeks of playoffs, ending the Friday before Xmas (Dec. 20). YOU MUST check out the brackets.
(Note that the regional finals — yes, regional finals — were Thanksgrabbing weekend.)
■ The state has eight conferences, so crown those league champions as state champions and eliminate states.
A league champion wouldn't be a state champion because it hasn't faced opponents from other leagues or multiple counties (the Constitution State Conference and Pequot Football League kinda' come close).
A league champion would be a league champion. Not a state champion.
■ Eight divisions are awful. It's rewarding mediocrity. EVERYBODY GETS A TROPHY!
Stop overreacting, silly. You're being crazy, unless you're angling to get a nationally syndicated AM radio show, in which case carry on.
Yes, eight divisions is overkill for a state with 146 teams. Eight divisions roughly equates to 18 teams each. In a perfect world, the committee will pare its division championships down to six-or-less.
The problem is that 32 playoff teams + Thanksgrabbing Day games – quarterfinal round = eight divisions.
Bear in mind what you and I consider overkill seems just right for others. There are coaches who feel there's nothing wrong with that many divisions because there's no tougher CIAC-sanctioned postseason to qualify for than football.
Approximately 22 percent of the state's 146 teams make the playoffs. Most others only require a team to win 40 percent of its games. One-loss football teams were regularly missing the playoffs when 24 teams qualified.
The previous six-division, four-team format would've left unbeaten NFA out of the 2012 Class LL playoffs (it advanced to the final).
Fairfield Prep, a 2013 Class LL finalist, wouldn't have qualified as it was the sixth seed. Ditto No. 8 Ridgefield, which upset top-seeded Newtown last season.
Hillhouse, the 2010 Class M champion, wouldn't have qualified as it was the eighth seed.
Let's point it out again — hockey had three state champions of 56 teams last season. Division I had 17 teams. Division III had just 15.
Eight football divisions mean that one out of 18.25 football teams will win a state title.
Three hockey divisions mean that one out of 19 hockey teams will win a state title.
That ain't a huge difference between the two.
Want to argue that three state champions in hockey is still proportionally less than football? Go ahead if you so choose to use those numerologies. It still doesn't change the ratio.
Feel free to rail against eight state champions, but apply that same outrage to other sports and advocate for change.
Also remember that football has and will continue to be held to a much higher standard than other CIAC-sanctioned sport.
We're not advocating for eight divisions. Our perfect world features a four-division, eight-team playoff that starts after Thankgrabbing. Participants would be selected by CalPreps.com's computer program. Games would be played in the snow. We'd also get to hang out with the delightful Alison Brie, too.
Hey, we're talking about OUR perfect world here.
■ Some folks will believe that the Class LL-1 champion is better than the Class LL-2 champion, etc., in an eight-division format.
Some folks believe every year that the Class LL champion is better than the Class M and S champions. What's the difference?
A segment of fans and pollsters refused to consider 2013 Class S champion Ansonia the state's No. 1 team because that division wasn't as tough as Class LL or L.
People will always argue that one division champion is better than another as long as there's not an open division. And formatting an open division is a LOT tougher than one would think.
■ How will the committee format eight divisions?
That's a question they've decided to table until February so that they can think about it more.
The smart money is that they'll continue to break them down by enrollment. We advocated ranking teams in four divisions (Class L, L, M and S). Take the top eight, and then cut them in half by division.
Should you believe that process equates to having co-champions in each division, alright, then break the teams up into divisions numbered 1-8. Or A-H. Or something.
■ Did the committee eliminate conference championship games?
No. A league can still hold one if they so choose.
The FCIAC, NVL and SWC have been the only leagues that have conference title games.
Wolcott principal Joe Monroe told Paul Hoey at the meeting that the NVL was discontinuing its title game. Ansonia and Woodland, which met in both the conference and the Class S finals, ended up playing 15 games in 14 weeks. No good. An NFL team plays 13 games through the first 14 weeks.
Hoey said that the SWC is considering eliminating its title game, too.
It's hard to envision the FCIAC quashing its final as its as much a part of its culture as Thanksgrabbing Days are to the state. The FCIAC championship predates the CIAC playoffs by 10 years.
The FCIAC final has generally been played the Friday before Thanksgrabbing when the rest of its teams are on a bye week. There have been some years in which the regularly scheduled Thanksgrabbing game between Greenwich-Staples has been a de facto conference final.
■ What happens if bad weather forces a team to postpone a game to the following Monday? It would force a team to play twice in a week, which is what the CIAC and the football committee wanted to eliminate.
A team could play twice in a week because of bad weather.
A team cannot schedule two games in a week, however. Nor will the CIAC schedule two playoff rounds in a week.
"If you get rained out on a Saturday and have to play on a Monday, that's beyond your control," said Ledyard coach and athletic director Jim Buonocore, who serves on the committee. "That is allowable, and from an AD standpoint, if you have to move a game to Monday and then play Friday night, you could call the other AD and ask if you could bump it back to Saturday. I think most people would be cognizant of that."
That should cover everything.
Should you have more questions or comments, please feel free to send them in. Use your real name, too. We're all friends here.
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Gentleman Jim Bransfield, Middletown Press: NOT a fan of the eight division format.
Dave Ruden, The Ruden Report: A proposal for CIAC football committee — reward excellence.
Sean Patrick Starfish, JRC Amalgamated: Hamden needs a head coach. Again.
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Appreciate you reading.
Thank you. Drive thru.
East Lyme returned just five players with any varsity experience and lost its first four games. It's made gradual improvement and downed Woodstock Academy last Friday, 42-7, its second-straight victory.