One of the main discussions at this week’s CHSAA Football Committee meeting was the idea to expand the playoff field from 16 to 24 teams in Class 4A with another proposal put forward in Class 2A. Class 5A, the last two years, has played a 24-team bracket and 4A was given approval to expand starting with the 2020-21 season. The Class 2A proposal was voted down.
But the trend is now in place for more classifications to ask for expanded playoffs and I’m sure we’ll see more proposals about doing so in the future.
We would like to see each division send just 16 teams to the playoff bracket; and that includes reducing 5A back to that number. A 16-team field is more than enough to decide a state championship.
Now some numbers.
With the new cycle starting next Fall, the largest field of any division is the eight man ranks as 45 teams are scheduled to compete there. Six man has just 35 schools with the 11-man classifications ranking from 40 to 43 participants overall. If the field is expanded to 24 teams across the board, then each division will send more than 50 percent of their teams into the playoff bracket.
- Class 5A: 57 percent
- Class 4A: 56 percent
- Class 3A: 60 percent
- Class 2A: 60 percent
- Class 1A: 57 percent
- 8man: 53 percent
- 6man: 69 percent
In our mind, that’s simply too many teams and leaves the excitement of making the playoffs a bit more muted. If everyone gets in, what’s the big deal?
Another thought against adding teams to the playoffs involves the competitiveness of the first round. Right now, it’s not there overall. In six man through Class 4A this year, only nine of the 48 first round games (Round of 16) were decided by single digits. That’s less than 20 percent (18.75%). If you add in the round of 16 in Class 5A, that number drops to 17.2 percent (11 of 64).
Margin of victories in the round of 16
- Class 5A: 17, 2, 42, 29, 29, 25, 7, 21
- Class 4A: 35, 3, 15, 20, 15, 14, 19, 26
- Class 3A: 34, 20, 56, 17, 17, 31, 9, 38
- Class 2A: 33, 6, 44, 8, 42, 14, 28, 32
- Class 1A: 50, 7, 14, 7, 51, 3, 3, 34
- 8man: 60, 6, 36, 52, 40, 30, 36, 38
- 6man: 66, 7, 45, 32, 44, 17, 32, 46
Round of 16 games decided by single digits. As you can see, most were the 8 vs 9 or 7 vs 10.
- 5A: Fairview beat Cherokee Trail 36-34
- 5A: Eaglecrest beat Grandview 28-21
- 4A: Ponderosa beat Skyline 16-13
- 3A: Durango beat Palisade 23-14
- 2A: Basalt beat Classical Academy 13-7
- 2A: Faith Christian beat Elizabeth 8-0
- 1A: Highland beat Hotchkiss 14-7
- 1A: Wray beat Florence 13-10
- 1A: Colorado Springs Christian beat Holy Family 17-14
- 8man: Merino beat West Grand 14-8
- 6man: Eads beat Flagler/Hi Plains 59-52
By contrast, 34 of the 64 first round games were decided by at least 20 points. That’s a whopping 53.2 percent.
Now let’s look at the clubs that would have been added to the playoff field if an expanded 24-team field would have been in place for the recently completed season. The selections are based on RPI standings at the end of the year with teams finishing 17 through 24 added to the current bracket. Since 5A is already a 24-team field, we do not include those clubs in our numbers. But through the other divisions, 48 additional teams would have earned playoff berths. Only 14, or 29 percent, had winning records.
- Hinkley (4A)
- Pueblo Central (3A)
- Denver North (3A)
- Pagosa Springs (2A)
- Englewood (2A)
- Academy (2A)
- D’Evelyn (2A)
- Alamosa (1A)
- Crowley County (1A)
- Peyton (1A)
- Elbert (8man)
- Soroco (8man)
- Hoehne (8man)
- Front Range Christian (8man)
Eight of the additional teams finished the season at five hundred leaving another 26 clubs with losing records added to the playoff field. That means 54 percent of the teams joining the playoff field would qualify despite finishing below 500. Again, we don’t feel that will add to the competitiveness of the football playoffs.
Obviously, football is following the lead of other high school sports in the state as many such as basketball, soccer and baseball have 32-team state tournament brackets. Football though is treated differently for classifications and we feel it should be handled a bit differently when it comes to playoff bracketing as well.
This is our opinion only and we welcome your thoughts on the idea and our suggestions. You can leave a comment below or on our Facebook page. And you can reach us directly through email at [email protected] or by text at 970.380.7737.