The CIAC agreed Tuesday on changes to the state playoff format in football. Under the adopted proposal, there will be eight state champions for the 2014 season, doubling the number from this past season.
Like last season, the tournament will still consist of 32 teams but, under the new format, the quarterfinal round, which was established in 2010 and played the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, will be eliminated. A semifinal round will be contested on the Saturday 10 days after Thanksgiving and championship games will be played the following Saturday.
The top eight teams in each division based on the current CIAC point system will qualify for the postseason. Once the qualifying teams are determined, they will be divided into two groups of four by enrollment and seeded into two separate brackets based on the point system. The winner of each four-team division will be crowned a state champion. Additional decisions on the sites and schedules for the semifinals and finals for this year’s postseason will be decided at a later date.
Eight champions will be the most ever in one season in this state. On several occasions, most recently in 2009, six champions were crowned. Many pundits feel eight champions is too much for a state this size.
“Not one coach, and very few that I’ve talked to, are comfortable with eight state champs,” said Hand coach Steve Filippone, a consultant to the CIAC football committee. “But our hand is forced by the people advising the CIAC to not have that middle of the week (quarterfinal) game. It’s an inevitable part of the climate. Something had to give, and this is it.”
This new system allows a minimum of one week between each game, which is in accordance with a strong recommendation of the Connecticut State Medical Society, a body the CIAC consulted when exploring changes to the playoff format.
Safety appeared to be the CIAC’s main concern for restructuring the playoff format. Last year, due to an extra week in the schedule, teams were allowed to play 11 regular season games. For a handful of teams who advanced to a league championship, and then reached a state final, they played as many as 15 games last season.
“Mainly for the health and safety of our young people we listened to the trainers and medical field,” said Dr. Leroy Williams, the chairman of the CIAC football committee, Tuesday via teleconference. “We feel very comfortable that we are coming in line with the medical community.”
Despite some reservations, Filippone was content with the committee’s decision because it was based on recommendations from the medical community. At the committee meeting last month, Filippone said they agreed to keep the number of qualifying teams at 32 and not amend the regular season for 2014.
“I think the committee did the right thing,” Filippone said. “It’s only for one year. We weren’t about to go backwards or cut down on the number of teams that can participate but the message from medical professionals is, they looked at national data and had concerns about playing Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday, and that the Tuesday (the quarterfinals) game had to go.”
League championship games for the FCIAC and SWC will still be played the week before Thanksgiving, and the new system keeps Thanksgiving Day rivalries as the last game of the regular season. Williams says the committee talked about playing a quarterfinal game before Thanksgiving, but decided against it for this season.
Filippone said future discussion may include exploring the idea of contesting the quarterfinal round before Thanksgiving or “manipulating the start of the season”.
“We plan on finding a way to include quarterfinals in our playoff system,” Filippone said. “We have very reliable assurance from the CIAC that they’re going to allow us to amend it for the following season. Our committee has work to do.”
If the new state playoff system was implemented for last year, the fields would have looked like this, with each school’s boys enrollment in parentheses. –Sean Patrick Bowley
2013 Playoffs [Southington champion]
1. Newtown (905) | 2. Glastonbury (1077) | 3. Hall (725) | 4. Southington (1009) | 5. Norwich Free Academy (1071) | 6. West Haven (794) | 7. Fairfield Prep (896) | 8. Ridgefield (906)
Under 2014 format
- Upper Division: 1. Glastonbury (1077), 2. Southington (1009), 3. NFA (1071), 4. Ridgefield (906)
- Lower Division: 1. Newtown (905), 2. Hall (725), 3. West Haven (794), 4. Fairfield Prep (896).
2013 Playoffs [New Canaan champion]
1. Darien (659) | 2. Platt (619) | 3. New Canaan (629) | 4. Middletown (674) | 5. New London (536) | 6. Farmington (678) | 7. North Haven (625) | 8. Hand (617)
Under 2014 format:
- Upper Division: 1. Darien (659), 2. New Canaan (629), 3. Middletown (674), 4. Farmington (678)
- Lower Division: 1. Platt (619), 2. New London (536), 3. North Haven (625), 4. Hand (617)
2013 Playoffs [St. Joseph champion]
1. Valley Regional/Old Lyme (409) | 2. St. Joseph (440) | 3. Barlow (487) | 4. Bethel (502) | 5. Brookfield (433) | 6. Gilbert/Northwestern (431) | 7. Ledyard (465) | 8. Quinnebaug Valley Co-Op (508)
Under 2014 format
- Upper Division: 1. Barlow (487), 2. Bethel (502), 3. Ledyard (465), 4. Quinnebaug Valley (508).
- Lower Division: 1. Valley Regional (409), 2. St. Joseph (440), 3. Brookfield (433), 4. Gilbert/Northwestern (431).
2013 Playoffs [Ansonia champion]
1. Capital Prep Co-op (239) | 2. Ansonia (323) | 3. Rocky Hill (345) | 4. Woodland (363) | 5. Morgan (308) | 6. Prince Tech (359) | 7. Coginchaug (279) | 8. Bloomfield (276)
Under 2014 format:
- Upper Division: 1. Ansonia (323), 2. Rocky Hill (345), 3. Woodland (363), 4. Prince Tech (359).
- Lower Division: 1. Capital Prep Co-Op (239), 2. Morgan (308), 3. Coginchaug (279), 8. Bloomfield (276).