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Glasz's plan needs to be considered

Creative thinking requires a measure of faith, what author and educator Stephen Covey calls "leaving the comfort zone of base camp to confront an entirely new and unknown wilderness."

Maybe that's why creativity is often mocked. The unknown terrifies. But can it edify?

The time has come in Connecticut high school sports for creativity, especially within football, whose scheduling and playoff rhythms are handcuffed by the calendar, Thanksgiving and enrollment, not necessarily in that order. Wheels spin furiously within the sport, yet with little traction, the result of applying traditional processes of thought to issues that require some ingenuity.

Which is why state officials ought to consider Matt Glasz's potential playoff format based on enrollment and geography more seriously than they've considered anything else to date. Glasz, the director of annual giving and athletic development at the Coast Guard Academy, divided the state's 146 teams into 20 divisions based on enrollment and location, maintaining the 32-team playoff format with quarterfinal, semifinal and championship rounds.

Intriguing would be one way to describe it.

Brilliant would be another.

Glasz ran with an idea unearthed last year by Sean Patrick Bowley of Glasz's model uses four enrollment-based classes with five divisions of seven or eight teams. A school would play everyone within its division once, one game against a team from the other divisions and the option to keep playing its Thanksgiving opponent.

Here's why it merits serious consideration: School size determines success or failure more in football than any other sport. Football's inherent unfairness over the years centers on small and medium sized schools bound by conference affiliation forced to play enough bigger schools every year to perpetually imperil playoff chances.

For our purposes:

East Lyme, Fitch and New London would play in the Class L "Nutmeg" Division with E.O. Smith, RHAM and Middletown.

Ledyard, St. Bernard/Norwich Tech, Stonington, Valley Regional/Old Lyme and Waterford would be five of the seven teams in the Class M "Thames" Division.

Montville would be in the Class S "Timber" Division with other Eastern Connecticut Conference schools Griswold, Plainfield and Windham.

Norwich Free Academy, the ECC's only Class LL school, would be separated from the rest of the conference. Glasz put them in the Class LL "Oak" Division with Glastonbury and Xavier, among others.

Enrollment-based scheduling has been suggested in previous years. Coaches and athletic directors balked because in addition to ending conference rivalries, travel would increase. Not all Class M schools, for instance, are in the same county. Glasz's plan, however, adds a geographic component to quell absurd weekly travel.

The result: Every game that determines playoff qualification would come against a like-sized school. It is the best and fairest way for everyone.

All five division winners would automatically qualify for the playoffs with three wild card teams. Glasz also suggests the season start a week earlier to provide schools a bye week and to capitalize on nicer weather in September.

True enough, his plan decreases the number of local rivalries and would take a school like NFA away from its natural region. No longer, though, would NFA dine on a diet of smaller schools. Plus, the plan would allow NFA to keep its Thanksgiving game with New London.

It is virtually impossible to convince coaches at any level to think about the greater good. They'll look at Glasz's potential divisions not with an eye for fairness and balance, but through whether they can win. If they can win, it's a good idea. If they can't, it's bad. Except that Glasz's plan suggests all schools ought to be able to win playing opponents of the same size.

The state football committee cannot adopt this for next season. It meets Tuesday to finalize an eight-division state playoff format that the Board of Control can approve for the 2014 season. It must also sell a proposal to school administrators and coaches to hold state playoff quarterfinals so that they can shrink the number of divisions, but still have 32 participants.

But for the future? They need to consider The Glasz Menagerie. It's different. But it makes sense.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.


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