Conference Rundown

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.

  1. Hinkley (4A)
  2. Pueblo Central (3A)
  3. Denver North (3A)
  4. Pagosa Springs (2A)
  5. Englewood (2A)
  6. Academy (2A)
  7. D’Evelyn (2A)
  8. Alamosa (1A)
  9. Crowley County (1A)
  10. Peyton (1A)
  11. Elbert (8man)
  12. Soroco (8man)
  13. Hoehne (8man)
  14. 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.



Kevin Shaffer

Kevin Shaffer

Kevin Shaffer is the founder and owner of the Colorado Preps Network which debuted in the summer of 2003. Kevin and his wife Lanette reside in Fort Morgan and are the proud parents of Lexi and Tyler.


  1. Kevin great points,I agree, who wants to see a running clock starting the 3rd quarter. Travel could be a big deal teams would get moved around in the bracket even more than they do now!

  2. I think you make some great points Kevin, a lot of teams making the playoffs that probably don’t deserve to be there if its opened up to 24 but that still happens regardless because of RPI. Take a look at 2A la Junta, they made the playoffs because of RPI they were one game over .500 and did not deserve to be there. I think if we continue to use RPI as the decider for the playoffs they need to take more teams. RPI’s biggest factor is based on the teams you play record and with high school sports leagues are up and down every year. Look at the IML last year, 4 teams qualified for the playoffs, this year 1. If you are forced to play the same teams every year (League Games), your opponents record shouldn’t carry so much weight. I don’t see CHSAA going away from RPI, so why not allow more teams. Football is struggling with its participation numbers every year, allowing more teams the “chance” at a state championship will only go to help the sport. Just my ideas though.

  3. I think you make a strong case for your opinion, Kevin. I’m in a tough spot this year because my son’s team started poorly, then won their final 4 games to finish 2nd (4-1 conference record) in a conference who sent it’s top team to the state championship. A team we lost to on the road by 4.
    After getting healthy from early season injuries, and the coaches and players figuring out a few things, they were a team definitely on a roll at the end, and had already beaten teams who made the playoffs. But, with all that said, there’s always gonna be an outlying circumstance like this every year. Expanding would open the truly deserving teams to things like injuries, fluke games, and the like.

  4. The key question is, “What is the goal of the playoffs?”
    I haven’t seen anyone agree on that, and until we (CHSAA) do/does, this won’t be resolved.

    If the (most likely) answer is “to determine who the best team in the state is”, then we don’t need 24 or even 16 teams.

    College gets that done with 4 teams. OK, so we’re not that sophisticated with such a wise committee, but history demonstrates we only need 8 teams in each Colorado classification.

    Not since 2012, and only in 3A (#10 that year), has a team not in the top 8 seeding won the championship. And, since then, only 2 teams not seeded in the top 4 have won. With the use of the RPI, and the refinements to it in the last 2 years, teams seeded 4 and above have won all classifications. Allowing for error, we surely don’t need more than an 8 team playoff.

    More games mean more injuries. Every year, teams play unnecessary playoff games. Consequently, kids are injured in the playoffs who should have been healthy to play in the championships.

    8 teams is all we need. But first we need to admit the real reason we have playoffs.

  5. Kevin, another issue you have are the teams bumped from playoffs who have a top 16 RPI in favor of a conference winner(s) from a weak conference(s). Example, University HS finished 15 in RPI but got bumped, in fact so did 16 seed Woodland Park. Patriot West is a gauntlet every year, kind of like the Plains in 8 man. Playoffs should be for the best teams. Expansion would allow inclusion of better quality teams and not expel conference winners in weak conferences. So we can’t go with just RPI, but we also shouldn’t punish those teams who play a challenging schedule to gain a higher RPI. Maybe an expansion to 20 teams would be a solid compromise?? The sports environment in CO can’t continue to be driven by the 5A level with all others just after thoughts.

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