CIAC football votes to restores four state champs, three rounds in 2015

Southington celebrates its 2013 Class LL championship. (Mara Lavitt - New Haven Register)

Southington celebrates its 2013 Class LL championship. (Mara Lavitt – New Haven Register)

CHESHIRE >> Connecticut high school football is likely going back to three rounds of state playoffs and four state champions for the 2015 season, the CIAC announced Thursday after a monthly meeting of its football committee.

The 2015 playoff format will be a replica of the one used from 2010-2013 with several modifications designed to address safety concerns from the state’s medical society, which necessitated an overhaul of the 2014 playoffs in February and created eight state champions.

Included in those modifications: The elimination of full-contact practices after the ninth game and a strict adherence to 10 regular season games. This is a two-year proposed deal.

The proposal will now go to the CIAC’s Board of Control for a final vote. CIAC Associate Executive Director Steven Wysowski said he was optimistic it would be approved.

“This proposal drastically reduces the amount of contact high school football teams make throughout the course of the season,” Wysowski said. “You have to credit the (athletic directors) and coaches. They came together with a Herculean effort and really came forward with a good tweak of the playoff system.

“The message was limiting contact. We needed to find a way to do that and still go with a three-game postseason tournament scenario. I think we’ve done that.”


Under the new format, the time between playoff games will be spaced out. As in previous seasons, quarterfinals will be played the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. The state semifinals will begin the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

The state semifinals, however, are being moved up from the following Saturday to either Sunday or Monday, which would give teams at most two extra days between the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds. The state championships will be played the Saturday afterward.

As part of the deal, the CIAC football committee agreed to reduce full-contact practices throughout the season. Teams will get a maximum 120 minute per week in the preseason and a maximum of 90 minutes per week during the season until Week 9. Teams will not be allowed full-contact practices during a bye week and after nine weeks, including the post season.

The reduction of full-contact practices was praised by Dr. Thomas Trojian of Asylum Hill Family Medicine Center and a member of the CIAC Board of Control who was present at Thursday’s meeting.

“This is an excellent step forward,” Trojian said. “The CIAC really worked hard to It is really putting an emphasis on spacing out the playoff games and, by making no live contact for teams that make the playoffs, you’re greatly reducing the amount of collisions.”

Trojian noted that the new contact regulations were less than a recent law passed in California, which he said limits high school teams to 180 minutes of full-contact practices a week.

CIAC will also monitor football injuries through national injury surveillance program endorsed by the National Federation of State High Schools while the new playoff format is in place.

The CIAC will require schools to report injuries into a database and will use that data to make adjustments in the future if necessary. Injury data will be reported by schools’ athletic trainers or qualified medical personnel.

“We’re think this is going to be good for the game,”  football committee chairman Leroy Williams said. “Kids’ safety and concussions are national news. The biggest thing with this is that we’re going to get some data (on injuries). Having the data collected at every practice, at every game and importing that into a national database that we can use is really what we like about this. ”

The number of total regular season games will be reduced to 10, built in with a mandatory bye. That number also includes league championships, which haven’t been official games under current CIAC rules.

Only two leagues, the SWC and FCIAC, continue to hold league championships. If they want to continue to hold them, Wysowski said, “they might have to get a little bit creative. It’ll be up to them.”

Concerning his league’s playoff, New Canaan coach and committee member Lou Marinelli, said he had no idea how the FCIAC would handle the game limitation. “I know because of all the tradition, the FCIAC would like to keep the championship,” he said. “We’ll have to figure something out.”

But Marinelli, like many coaches, praised the return to four champions and three divisions.

“I thought the proposal they came up with, with the doctors’ input and the ADs and the coaches, I thought they did a great time in a time where football has gotten a very bad rap,” Marinelli said. “I think we pretty much got what we wanted: Four state champions and 10 games. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

Connecticut football playoff comparisons (2010-2016)

Playoff Table Comparison

New CIAC HS Football Playoff format 2015


  1. Coach Lil B says

    Did not see this one coming. But this does give a “win” to all sides here in the sense that we get Thanksgiving and 3 playoff rounds. No more full contact practices after week 9 was a good sell for the safety issue (most teams don’t do a lot of hitting at this time anyways). 5,6,5 days of rest is much better than the 5,4,7 last three years. Those two extra days off between quarters and semi are huge and the 5 to the final is not bad. At least this is a reasonable outcome…..I’d be surprised to hear a lot of negatives to this one (but I’m sure they’ll be a few). Thanks for the update SPB

  2. Concerned observer says

    It makes no sense to throw away the 2014 season. This change is being done wrong. There are seniors with their last season coming up who now get a playoff system that cthsfb committees agree is not good enough

  3. seth says

    there is no reason to not do this for the upcoming season since a lot of the limitations on hitting are already in place. spb, any chance they change it for this coming year?

  4. Mike says

    this is just smoke and mirrors. Nothing has changed if you eliminate the 2014 season. The schedule was automatically going to a 10 game regular season. Nobody is hitting that late into the season. Nobody hits more than 90 minutes in a week anyways.
    The moving of playoff games a day does nothing to protect a kid. Some leagues play the Friday or Saturday before Thanksgiving, Wednesday or Thanksgiving, Tuesday, Sunday or Monday and again Saturday????? A team could play 5 games in 3 weeks. Adding a day here and there in the middle does nothing to protect the brain. The parents alliance is clueless if they think anything has changed.
    Somehow this is all about everything but the safety of the student athletes. The coaches in the big schools paid a big stipend, CIAC collecting 3 gates vs 2 and all the adults that think they they were superstars in high school!

    • a coach says

      Mike, you’re going to see them mandate the saturday before thanksgiving a bye for everyone who plays on thanksgiving and still build in a bye week. Meaning august practices will start a week earlier and games will start the week of Labor Day. I wouldn’t bet the house just yet but it makes sense

  5. crimson crusader says

    The CIAC is going into the right direction for the sake of safety… they have to find a way to enforce the non-contact hours….you better believe that some coaches will ignore the edict….I hear that youth football is trying out different safety policies too….that’s even better news because youth football is where head injuries begin….shots to under-developed heads are really the cause of so many concussions at the high school level….Only one of my high school football teammates ever sustained a concussion…..Pop Warner wasn’t around then…..That has to mean something…..

  6. captrips says

    How does the CIAC get this into play for this season? The fact that they’re reverting to a 2010-2013 like system demonstrates how ridiculous the 2014 set up is. SPB, what gives?

    • Sean Patrick BowleySean Patrick Bowley says

      It won’t.

      Also, worth noting that nobody *wanted* to cut the postseason to two weeks and have eight state champs. But the medical society strongly suggested they had to, so they did and used the time to come up with a better solution for 2015.

      • fciac jr says

        the issue is that there is still time to fix 2014. You wont be able to cut the 11th game but you could surely extend the season into December to save this year.

        Just too bad for all those seniors who worked their butts off for their last year of HS ball and they get rewarded by a joke of a playoff system. All kids deserve a chance to play in a true playoff system if you earned it with your team.

        • JB says

          No way to change schedules this year … its set on 2-year cycles. So next year is the only way to implement the total game limit and get the 3-round playoffs.

          Interesting delima for the FCIAC. With 10-game limit to regular season including league title games. If the FCIAC keeps the title game – most likely – then the FCIAC will actually have a 9-game regular season with effectively 2 bye weeks for most teams.

          Overall, this is a “Win – Win” for fans and players for next year. Only remaining issue with 3-round playoffs instead of 4-rounds is to address the strength of schedule issue in the point system. The CIAC needs to reduce the number of blowouts in that first round and make the overall seeding better. A strength of schedule overlay into the point system would make the playoffs much more competitive and that first round less like an exhibition round.

  7. JB says

    crimson crusader – agree with you totally. “Youth” football started in 7th/8th grade in our day and coaches taught proper hitting technique. Also, the equipment did not support “head-hunting” like it does today – the aggressor would just as likely “see stars” as the target. And the glorification of “targeting” in the recent past seems to have ended … that now defunct ESPN segment called “All-Jacked-Up” is the prime example of what was wrong with the direction of football. Folks are getting smarter and things have reverted more towards the athletic nature of the competition, but hitting is an important part of the game. The more physical you are the better your team will perform, but “targeting” will become a thing of the past in youth football. There will be strict ejection rules for players and coaches that attempt to use that as means to “being physical” when they really aren’t … the “cheap shot” has no place in youth football. We need to keep kids in the game not send them out of it with head trauma.

    As far as enforcement at the high school level, I think coaches and schools are being put on notice that they will be liable if safety rules are violated and someone is injured as a result. The potential financial hardship from lawsuit will be enough to deter coaches and require schools to monitor compliance.

  8. BB says

    Start football in August like everyone else does down south. If your in the playoffs no thanks giving game. Playing f pot ball in August would bring better crowds and b better for all this playoff system stuff going on.

    • WB says

      I agree with BB up to a point. August is not practical, but the first Friday/Saturday after Labor Day in September, which is after every school is in session makes perfect sense. That is 2 weeks earlier than 2014. Not sure why CT football is not played in early September, but instead played into mid-December, where the weather is likely to be lousy. The season would end 2 weeks earlier and the important Thanksgiving games could be played by those teams who want to play them, but not forced upon others who would be just as happy finishing their season in the 1st week in November.

  9. Old School Common Sense says

    Ugh. For some reason some idiotic “safety” commitee has gotten hold of football. The “safety” commitee, made up of hand- wringing mommies and pencil- necked insurance lawyers and bloviating MDs is now dictating how to kill all the fun in football. This bunch of bureaucratic kill- joys has been after football for decades and is finally making serious incursions into areas they have absolutely no knowledge of. Citing carefully culled statistics made from junk science they have convinced a bunch of otherwise reasonable men that a conk in the head in a football game in high school is tantamount to a gunshot wound.
    I played football 40 years ago when you were not only allowed to forearm shiver a tight end on every at, but spear tackling was allowed. If you didn’t get your bell rung at least once a season you were not really playing. Guess what, my teammates went on to become brain surgeons, investment bankers, rocket scientists, attorneys etc. Nobody became a wife beating, suicidal maniac. In fact , if you tried to correlate football practice and traumatic brain injury you would get a p- value of 1.0.
    So now, they are dictating how many games to play and how to practice? After ruining an entire season of football? And a bunch of dopes are not only listening to these jerks but PRAISING them? Ha! There is one born every minute!

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