CIAC exploring serious state football playoff changes for 2014

St. Joseph cheerleaders brave cold and snowy conditions to perform during the Class M championship game on Dec. 14. The threat of inclement weather for games played deep into December is one of the reasons the CIAC believes the high school football playoff system should change. (Photo John Vanacore)

St. Joseph cheerleaders brave cold and snowy conditions to perform during the Class M championship game on Dec. 14. The threat of inclement weather for games played deep into December is one of the reasons the CIAC believes the high school football playoff system should change. (Photo John Vanacore)

St Joseph's running back Mufasha Abdul-Basir gains large yardage during the Cadets 54-16 state championship win over Brookfield at CCSU's Arute field on Dec. 14. The threat of inclement weather for games played deep into December is one of the reasons the CIAC believes the high school football playoff system should change. (Photo John Vanacore)

St Joseph’s running back Mufasha Abdul-Basir gains large yardage during the Cadets 54-16 state championship win over Brookfield at CCSU’s Arute field on Dec. 14. The threat of inclement weather for games played deep into December is one of the reasons the CIAC believes the high school football playoff system should change. (Photo John Vanacore)

In response to concerns about player safety and an unwieldy scheduling format that pushed last year’s high school football season deep in to December, Connecticut’s playoff system could be looking at another major overhaul.

The most radical proposal, multiple sources have confirmed, comes from CIAC associate executive director Paul Hoey. It involves eliminating spring practices, beginning the season a week earlier, shortening the regular-season schedule to as few as nine games and eliminating Thanksgiving Day as the official end of the regular season.

While the CIAC says no proposal is official, “The hope is to make some adjustments for 2014,” said Joel Cookson, the organization’s director of media and sports information.

“I think there’s just concerns in a lot of different areas,” he said. “When we’re finishing two weeks after the rest of the New England states, it suggests that we’re not being super efficient with our schedule and that it’s too late to be playing football in New England.”

At the heart of the issue, Cookson said, is the season’s length and possible safety issues that might arise.

Because the FCIAC, SWC and NVL held league championship games, five of the eight finalists wound up playing an unprecedented 15 games. In response, the NVL has already eliminated its conference championship game.

“You look at all the legitimate concerns about player safety and the way we play three playoff games in a week and a half after Thanksgiving, there’s a sense that it’s not great for everybody involved, for students, for the schools and for us,” Cookson said.

Sources say the CIAC would like to end its football season by the first week of December or earlier, meaning a three-game playoff schedule has to start before Thanksgiving.

The CIAC football committee is scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. on Jan. 22 to discuss how to respond.

“Our meeting is on January 22 and I’m sure we’ll have a lengthy discussion,” said Bunnell Athletic Director Dave Johnson, who is the Connecticut Association of Athletic Directors representative on the CIAC football committee. “What we’ll discuss, I don’t know. I really haven’t seen any proposals. But in my humble opinion, I like the current system we have. It maintains the integrity of the regular season and carries on the tradition of Thanksgiving football. I think it’s as good as we’re going to get.

“When we agreed on this system five years ago, we said we’d take a look at it and see if we needed any tweaks or improvements, but I think it’s just fine.”

CIAC executive director Paul Hoey was not available for comment Monday.

“Until we meet next Wednesday, it’s hard to figure out what they’re really trying to say or do,” said Lou Marinelli, New Canaan’s football coach and a football committee member. “I hope, I pray, they don’t try to force anything down our throat and I hope it’s not a bunch of non-football people making decisions for football without us being consulted. I think Connecticut football is pretty progressive and I think we have done a tremendous job coaching football and have our kids’ best interests in mind.”

John DelliSanti catches a 31-yard TD pass from Colton Smith to put Prep up 28-14 in the second quarter of Class LL final  on Dec. 19. That the game was postponed twice due to weather is one of the reasons the CIAC believes a change is needed to the state playoff system. (Mara Lavitt - Register)

John DelliSanti catches a 31-yard TD pass from Colton Smith to put Prep up 28-14 in the second quarter of Class LL final
on Dec. 19. That the game was postponed twice due to weather is one of the reasons the CIAC believes a change is needed to the state playoff system. (Mara Lavitt – Register)

Cookson said the CIAC would not comment on any specific ideas for change since they are not official.

“What Paul (Hoey) wanted to do is to lay out possibilities,” Cookson said. “We don’t have our minds made up. There might be ideas we haven’t even thought of yet. We feel like we need an open-minded approach on what’s the best solution.”

The rumored proposal, according to sources, is similar to one recently installed in Massachusetts and another proposed by football committee member and Hand coach Steve Filippone in 2008.

That proposal failed when the state’s superintendents refused to de-emphasize Thanksgiving Day football for the sake of expanding the playoffs.

The CIAC football committee responded with the current format which was to reduce six state playoff classes to four and expand to a quarterfinal round, ending the season a week later.

“I like things just the way they are,” said Staples coach Marce Petroccio, a football committee member. “I think because of the late date of the Prep-Southington game, the knee-jerk reaction is to shorten the season. I don’t know if that’s the way to go. And are people are ready to give up Thanksgiving football? I don’t know about that.”

Other than a snowstorm that postponed some quarterfinal games in 2012, the first three years of the new system were completed on schedule. The latest finals were played on Dec. 11 in 2010.

The 2013 season, however, saw a perfect storm of problems arise.

The late start to Thanksgiving, traditionally the end of the regular season in Connecticut, gave the state an extra week and an 11-game schedule. The state playoffs started a week later than normal.

Ultimately, the Class M and Class L finals were played in a snowstorm on Dec. 14. More snow and freezing conditions forced the CIAC to postpone the Class LL final between Southington and Fairfield Prep twice to Dec. 19, the latest a football season has ever ended in Connecticut. The CIAC made an exception to its bylaws to allow the game to be played.

“Yeah, it was a snowstorm, but guess what? That’s New England,” Johnson said. “You have to deal with it.”

Fifteen games in high school football are not rare. Including Connecticut, 18 states saw teams play 15-or-more games in 2013: Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, California, North Carolina, Ohio, Alabama, Nevada, Georgia, Louisiana, Indiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Virginia, Tennessee and Mississippi.

Many other states played as many as 14. Most of those states, however, are in warmer climates.

Several schools in California, Pennsylvania and North Carolina played 16 games.

“We played 15 games last year, I thought it was great,” Marinelli said. “Besides, how many teams really got to play 15 games? You have to be really good to get there. I don’t know if the FCIAC is ready to give up its championship game. And the Thanksgiving has just gotten bigger and bigger.”

Would you welcome a new playoff format that eliminates Thanksgiving football as the regular season's end?

  • No. Way. Keep Thanksgiving as reg. season finale (41%, 335 Votes)
  • Don't care as long as you can still play rivals on Thanksgiving (25%, 198 Votes)
  • Yes. It's time to start playoff earlier. (24%, 193 Votes)
  • I'm not sure what I think (7%, 53 Votes)
  • Don't care. (4%, 29 Votes)

Total Voters: 808

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  1. PapaDags says

    I hope they don’t play around with the Thanksgiving tradition-I wouldn’t mind seeing all the league championship games eliminated as many turn out to be a waste

  2. gobballfan says

    Good luck getting rid of Thanksgiving games. Not only is it the biggest gate for these schools every other year. It is also a season making game for a lot of the less talented teams. Teams go without a win all season, but if they beat their thanksgiving rival, all is good. Like someone in the article said, it’s New England, deal with the snow. Perhaps the CIAC should be a little more flexible in the scheduling of times and sites for the Championship games.

  3. Coach Kay says

    There is absolutely no reason the HS football season should begin around the 10/11th of September. In most states, the first games are always played around labor day, if not before. Even in the South, where it is hot as %$#*, they start earlier and end earlier. It would surely assist the winter sports season participants that do play football.

  4. ValleyFalls1 says

    Perhaps we can petition nationally to have Thanksgiving changed to the second Thursday in November. How cool would that be :)?


    Dogmatic tradition I heartily disdain. However, we do need a few traditions to anchor an American consciousness for ourselves and our children.

  5. Football Lover says

    As much as I love every aspect of high school football, I believe that the CIAC has an opportunity to make Connecticut a leader in high school football safety. Reducing the number of games played will reduce the players exposure to head trauma. The NESCAC sets a great example to follow with their 8 game season.

    • Matt Glasz says

      The NESCAC playing 8 games has nothing to do with the league setting an example for reduced exposure to head trauma.

      The schedule exists under the guise of tradition but is nothing more than the College president’s fear of emphasizing athletics over scholastic endeavors.

      Scheduling out of conference games is not allowed and despite the fact that there are only 10 football schools in the NESCAC, no team can play all of the other teams in the conference because of the archaic 8 game schedule.

    • No Brainer says

      The game must change because Mom’s aren’t putting their kids in football and lawsuits are happening in a BIG way. The NFL, Ivy League and Pop Warner tackled this issue years ago, but this hasn’t happened in CT. It has too many games, unlimited contact practices, and no oversight about the unsafe drills the coaches are doing. But it’s coaches like those quoted above (that coach our kids) that will ending up killing the game instead of understanding the need for safety.

  6. old school says

    start the season earlier. most teams are scrimmaging at least 4 times in the preseason with some even more if you count “practicing” with other teams. no reason why game 1 shouldn’t be played on labor day. everyone starts practice at the same time, the second week of august. if a legit playoff system or at least the one in place is to be kept, thanksgiving could be in jeopardy. but as lou marinelli said “non football” people in power to make decisions who knows what will happen.

    • ter says

      i really think this is being made into a much bigger deal than it really is. to me its one of 3 very simple although not perfect solutions

      1) keep the current format, push winter start dates back to the week of christmas break and deal with weather issues on a case by case basis… under this format i do feel like the regular season schedule should be shortened by a game as well as the conf championships being eliminated. 12 or 13 games max (including post season)… no more 14 or 15 games way to many IMO

      2) go back to the 4 team per class format, keep conf championships but limit teams to 10 game max regular season if your league elects to have a conf championship game 11 max if they do not have one.

      3) start the season earlier and eliminate thanksgiving day games

  7. Matt Glasz says

    I think the CIAC is focusing on the wrong issue. The bigger problem is actually selecting the teams that play not deciding when they play. I don’t see a problem with the current format of a 10 game regular season, with the occasional 11th game if the calendar allows.

    Thanksgiving football is arguably the greatest aspect of Connecticut high school football. Why throw that away because of the possibility that a minuscule portion of games could be played in inclement weather?

    There are 146 football programs in Connecticut; only 32 make the playoffs. Even in a 10 game season, less than 2% of all games played in the state occur after Thanksgiving. Expanding the playoffs and crowning 6 “champions” in a state our size seems absurd.

    Neither a late Thanksgiving nor inclement weather are factors that you can legislate. There’s no guarantee that it won’t snow on or before Thanksgiving. We live in New England; the weather will always be a factor. If they can play the Super Bowl in New Jersey in February, certainly we can handle a high school game in early December.

    With regards to the selection of playoff teams, I’m still in favor of the District model that SPB has proposed that replaces the current conferences and realigns schools based on size and geographic location. If the CIAC truly wants to operate in a structure that is more closely to other states, THIS should be their first step.

      • Matt Glasz says

        Here’s SPB’s District model breakdown for each Class.

        CLASS LL:
        CLASS L:
        CLASS M:
        CLASS S:

        I actually put together a similar model that has 5 Districts of 7-8 teams per Class, as opposed to 6 Districts with 5-6 teams. Happy to share if anyone is interested.

          • Matt Glasz says

            This might be a little small to read. Try clicking on the picture:


            Also, it’s important to note that the breakdown is based on the 2013 enrollment numbers. If the CIAC ever adopted a District model, I would recommend using a 5 year rolling-average enrollment to determine a school’s Class.

            Regarding scheduling; each school would play all 6 or 7 teams in their District plus 3-4 games against teams from the other Districts in their Class. Match-ups would be based on win-loss records from the previous two seasons (similar to the way the SCC currently schedules Div. I and II crossover games).

            Traditional Thanksgiving rivalry games would remain but results would not count toward playoff points (similar to the way out of state games are currently not calculated).

            The winner of each District automatically qualifies for the State Playoffs with three remaining wild card teams qualifying based on the current CIAC playoff point system.

            As with the SPB model, Districts are divided based only on size and geographic location with emphasis given to traditional rivals if applicable.

          • Matt Glasz says

            To be clear, the results of traditional Thanksgiving games would not count toward playoff points only in games where schools from different Classes are playing (i.e. Derby-Shelton, NFA-New London, etc).

            Also, for what it’s worth, I think the CIAC could start the season sooner and sprinkle in a bye week.

          • ter says

            i feel like this is a big overhaul just to avoid eliminating the thanksgiving day games all together. if you are just going to discount them anyway dont even play them and start the season earlier.

            im assuming under this scheduling format the thanksgiving games would take place during the post season as they do in Mass?? quarters/semis two weeks preceding thanksgiving champ the week following?? why would a team risk injuries to key players in a meaningless game on thanksgiving with a state title opportunity a week later??

          • Matt Glasz says

            This overhaul would be irrelevant with regards to eliminating Thanksgiving games. You can have a District model with or without football on Turkey Day. A District model is simply a more equitable way to schedule opponents and determine a Champion based on school size.

            Under the current Conference system many teams play regular season (or qualifying) games against opponents from much smaller schools while others play much larger school and still others play like-sized schools.

            Why not have like-sized schools play only like-sized schools? That’s how we determine State Champions in the playoffs; why not use the same logic in determining who makes the playoffs?

            No need to start the playoffs prior to Thanksgiving. There is room for a 10 or 11 game regular season that starts the Friday after Labor Day and ends on Thanksgiving.

            I chose to keep Thanksgiving games because I think it’s the best part of Connecticut football and still think there’s a place for those games.
            Also, the Thanksgiving games would still count towards playoff points if the teams were from the same Classes (i.e. Darien-New Canaan, Brookfield-Bethel).

  8. ter says

    the only way to do this correctly is to eliminate the quarterfinal round and go back to a 4 team format or eliminate thanksgiving(which would be awful)…. im sorry but 14 or 15 games at the high school level is wayyy to many games. i dont care how many other states do it, its wrong….florida state played 14 games this season with 2 bye weeks in the reg season and a month off between conf championship and bcs championship. most of our teams that got to the finals played 15 games in 14 weeks, that is ridiculous and unsafe.

    if they keep the current format which it seems like most people want, then they have to push back the start dates for winter sports and when the last games can be played for fall sports… which they can still do without even having to push the end of winter sports back a week. just play two weeks with three games.

  9. JB says

    The two greatest things about CTHSFB last year were the SCC/FCIAC challenge games and the “play-in” atmopshere of the final T-day battles across the state. The worst thing about CTHSFB last year was the first round of the state playoffs – too many “pretenders” and a waste of time.

    My view is we need to make the regular season games way more competitive and make “strength of schedule” really count towards making the playoffs. We need to mandate two required intra-league crossover games (week 1 and week 6), keep the T-day tradition alive and its “play-in” potential, adjust state playoff points for quality of opponent to reduce “playoff pretenders”, qualify the 4 best teams via this revised regular season format and shorten the playoffs to 2 games post T-day. End the season with the finals in the first weekend of December.

    The 4 playoff teams per division would be determined by a combination of the revised state playoff points and the Coach’s season-ending poll, kind of like the college playoffs for the BCS. Hold the playoff games across the entire state in locations that are great high school venues but ones that make sense per game … to reduce team travel, increse fan turnout, etc.

    • ter says

      this is pretty much exactly how it was 4 or 5 years ago and how it should still be now. no idea why this format was ever changed to 6 teams…. i think most years under the old format they got things right. to me the 6 team format is nothing more than an extra week for the greedy ciac to collect a gate from 16 schools at 8 different locations

        • Mike says

          The change came from the coaches not the CIAC. The coaches wanted more teams involved in the playoffs seeing in almost every other sport 40% gets you in to the playoffs (This is a joke as well). 8 Teams out of 32 or so in each class is not bad. We are over reacting to one bad weather weekend. I agree 14-15 games are way too many, but play 10 games and keep the 8 team playoffs.

  10. Common Sense says

    Hey CIAC, here you go geniuses.

    I believe they had 67,000 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington for a 5A championship game that was also broadcasted on Fox-sports. I think they get 1 or 2 or a couple thousand kids to play at the college level every year. And sure, go ahead and cry about how “hot” it is in August to these kids from the South.

    Just continue selling these kids short with a mediocre product.

  11. Rob says

    You can start the season one week earlier and make (for example) SAT weekend in October be a mandatory bye week for all teams. This would slightly improve player safety, which is one aspect of this discussion. Players would still play the same amount of games, just over a longer period of time.

    But starting one week earlier will do nothing to solve the real tricky issue: how to keep Thanksgiving football alive while still fitting in three rounds of playoffs after Turkey Day.

  12. JB says

    I agree with Matt on what the CIAC focus should be (stronger qualification for states), but I am not a District model fan because it would eliminate too much in-region competition … I can’t imagine Staples or Greenwich never playing New Canaan or Darien again in football, that would not be what fans want in this region. Also, Xavier or West Haven and Hand or North Haven would never play football against either – not a good outcome. If we have 4 Division Districts that would end up eliminating too much traditional, in-region great competition between LL and L rivals.

    Need the CIAC to be a stronger advocate of regular season competition – overhaul the playoff point system to factor in strength of schedule and require intra-league crossover games. Keep the SCC / FCIAC challenge in week 1 … great leadership initiative … roll it out like thunder across the state. In week 6, require the ECC best to play the SCC best and the SWC best to play the FCIAC best. Would be exciting and create some great new matchups, but not dump the traditional rivals established within each region. Would really enhance which teams should make states and excite the fan base for the playoffs.

    • Matt Glaszmattglasz says

      I agree that ending match-ups between teams who are in the same region but different Classes is indeed the strongest argument against the District model.

      To me, continuing the Thanksgiving rivalries would be a fair concession. There’s certainly a place for tradition in Connecticut high school football and I realize there is no perfect solution, but to me a format that schedules like-sized schools against one another is clearly the most equitable format.

  13. ray brown says

    the elimination of t-day games would be disastrous for a lot of schools financially.there are better crowds for those games than there are for playoffs.what needs to be done first,is cut down on scrimmages.4 is way too many.there are some teams that play 17 games a year counting comes into play for sure.

    • ter says

      this really does nothing to solve the issues at hand, most of these scrimmages are more like controlled practices nowadays, as u know ansonia and shelton barely dressed their varsity and there was a time that scrimmage was approached like it was the first game of the year

  14. Another Step Backwards says

    Enough with these Enrollment Classes/Districts groupings .Attention Connecticut your #1 ranked team was an S school so in theory they should not be able to compete against bigger schools .How about grouping teams on success on the field for the last few years ?Another great “Brain Storm” is to play a game and NOT count it toward playoff standings…BRILLANT ! Maybe if they try to eliminate the “Killings” we have most of the year on the field we can actually get an idea what caliber team we may have.

    • Matt Glaszmattglasz says

      The CIAC has no concern for who is voted #1 in newspaper rankings, nor should they. They are tasked with deciding state champions in each of the four Classes.

      The only unbiased measures for aligning schools to compete against one another are enrollment and geographic location. Clearly a smaller school can beat a larger school. The late ’90s Bloomfield teams were possibly the greatest teams in Connecticut history. However, the goal should be to establish the most equitable system for determining who teams compete against and who deserves to compete in a state championship tournament.

      Also, teams already play games that don’t count towards CIAC playoff points. Plainfield won three games against teams from Rhode Island last season, none of them counted towards their average point total. I have no idea what your last sentence is supposed to mean.

        • Matt Glasz says

          Thanks for the correction Dan. Has it always been this way? I seem to recall out of state games not counting toward CIAC playoff points. Either way, I agree they should not count and it could provide opportunities for great inter-state games.

          • Mike says

            It has not always been that way. I think it was changed a few years back. Not sure of the date however.

  15. Another Step Backwards says says

    Last sentence means that the majority of the years weekly matchups ,especially top tier teams,are blow outs/Killings.How did the Class /Enrollment System Playoffs work out this year ?

  16. Another Step Backwards says says

    I understand the CIAC does not concern itself with whom gets voted #1.The point is that in Theory Larger schools should dominate against smaller schools but in Connecticut High School Football that is not the case a good portion of the time.The CIAC goes as far as giving Bonus points for smaller schools when they defeat larger schools.Lets try to improve our playoffs as this Enrollment system is not working very well and the Playoffs Winners for the most part are foregone conclusions.

    • Matt Glasz says

      That’s just a patently false statement. Larger schools do, in fact, dominate against smaller schools in Connecticut a vast majority of the time.

      In the three conferences that align themselves by enrollment here are the 2013 records of the smallest divisions against their larger counterparts:

      CCC: 7-9
      ECC: 3-19
      SCC: 3-18

      Of course there are exceptions but the facts (not opinions) show that schools with larger enrollments perform better than smaller schools. Why not create a system where similar sized schools play each other?

      You offer no solution to the problem of lopsided title games. Is your argument that there was a team in Class S who could have challenged Ansonia but didn’t qualify? Was there a team in L or M would could have beaten New Canaan or St. Joe’s but didn’t get the chance?

      In my opinion those teams were simply much better than anyone else in their Class. The only modification I can think of would be to add an “Open Class” and let schools elect to compete for the undisputed Connecticut State Championship.

      • Mike says

        I agree Matt. Nobody is S, M, or L was winning this year over those three schools. New Canaan may have been the best team in the state (if it didn’t slip up on Turkey day). Most of the years there are only a few teams in L, M, and S that can compete for the title. Probably only 3 or 4 really good teams in M or S which means the same teams are always in line to win a championship and often those game end up being one sided. LL is a bit better but I wonder if you look at it how often the Staples, Xaviers, etc. of the state make the playoffs. Many of the same teams make it year in and year out. I guess what I am saying is an open class would allow some of the better teams to see who is the best in state without an argument and at the same time might make the other classes a bit more competitive.

  17. ter says

    i think the timing of the championship games is being way overblown, this year was just the perfect storm of bad luck and of course….snow. but it has everyone jumping to crazy conclusions about what needs to get done when all it takes is a few slight modifications to dates times and sites to ensure the games all get played in a timely manner. while i would be very curious to see how a district format would play out i dont see that ever happening nor do i see thanksgiving or the 8 team format going anywhere either. this is as simple as pushing everything back one week, start basketball the week of christmas break with holiday tournaments being the opening to the season and just have two weeks where they play 3 games instead of 2 and that puts the winter sports right back on schedule

    the real problem is the number of regular season games these schools are playing, when teams are playing 15 games in 14 weeks something needs to change. i know other regions of the country are playing 14 or 15 games but im willing to bet there are bye weeks mixed in and alot of those states also are not handcuffed by their thanksgiving day games which as much as i love thanksgiving day for high school football we are handcuffed by it

    • says

      The teams playing 15 games are few. The regular season has 11 games this year and more often than not only has 10. In order to play 15 games you has 11 regular, 1 conference championship and 3 state playoff games. Without getting to your conference championship AND the state finals you’re not playing 15 games. Only a couple of teams did this. Most played 11 or 12.

        • ter says

          i know its only a handful of teams but that doesnt make it ok, 15 games in 14 weeks with no byes in between is to many for any high school team even if its only one team that plays them… 13 games should be the absolute max not the norm

  18. ctfootball says

    If the CIAC doesn’t care who’s #1. Why play states? Play through T-Day and have Conf.Playoffs and Conf. Championships the 2 weeks after.

  19. Tom Ryan says

    I am a former (football) coach who loves to “get out” and watch Friday night football. However, finding a competitive game to attend is often difficult. Check the scores out (on Saturday) and notice the number of “blow-outs.” The “District approach” would definitely provide more in-season “spirited” games. Unfortunately, the CIAC would never allow such a “football” arrangement and school administrators would oppose based on “conference” loyalty.

    • JB says

      I agree with Coach – too many regular season mismatches to pad points for the playoffs is holding us back … get after that and everything else will fall into place. I am a huge fan of the SCC / FCIAC challenge games.

  20. says

    I think part of the issue with football running as late as it did is not just the weather but also they want football done by a certain date because a lot of these kids play multiple sports – basketball, wrestling, indoor track are all starting and they need to close out the fall sports season.

    I know also the argument for Thanksgiving games is the attendance draw. I wonder if it’s completely due to it being Thanksgiving break or because it’s a rivalry game at the tail end of the season. So many team now already aren’t playing Thanksgiving morning but the Wednesday night before. With that thought in mind if I could set things up I would:

    1. Keep spring practice. Period. Not all the football players participate anyway because they are involved in spring sports. But it provides some development time for kids that could use it and gives the coaches some time to evaluate things.

    2. Make first day of practice for the fall August 1st instead of the 20th (approx). Youth football begins on this date, no reason it cannot be done at the high school level.

    3. First game of the regular season the first weekend in September. No reason to start so late (I’ll get to that – the starting date basically revolves around Thanksgiving being the last week of the regular season). Many other states are 2-3 weeks into their season by the time CT even starts.

    4. Use SBP’s district format for scheduling regular season games . I’ve said it before on other forums (I came up with a similar idea years ago on the Bird’s Nest CT HS football message board) . The Score Management “Cochran” rule is not needed. The problem is there are too many games that should never be scheduled because there is a vast difference between programs. School size matters. Ansonia is the exception, not the rule. Yes, a small school can have a good program but generally speaking if you have 1500-3000 students to choose from you’re going to be deeper and more athletic than a school with 400-500. Make the games more competitive by sensible scheduling.

    5. Limit district (conference, whatever you wish to call it) schedules to 8 games and keep 2-3 weeks open for coaches/AD’s to have some scheduling freedom. Who didn’t like seeing SWC teams playing NVL teams and SCC teams playing FCIAC teams during the regular season? How about NFA-Glastonbury? CT needs more of that. As it stands right now the mega-conferences dominate scheduling and it’s rare to see teams from different areas play one another.

    6. Eliminate using the playoff point system for out of state opponents. Take a little weight off the coaches shoulders and let them schedule an out of state game or two versus regional or national powers. They shouldn’t have to worry about missing the playoffs because they took a chance on an out of state power. I’m not talking about Danbury playing Rutland, VT or Plainfield playing some R.I. schools. I’m talking Greenwich-Naples, (FL), New Britain – Xaverian (MA), Southington – Bergen Catholic (NJ). Let coaches give their kids a chance to take on tough teams from other areas without worry of the playoff consequences. And before anyone cries foul about travel cost, time, etc nobody is saying you have to play these games. I’m just saying make it a more viable option.

    7. Eliminate the Thanksgiving games but keep it set up as a rivalry week, promote as such and ensure it is scheduled as such. Mandate all the games that week are on a Saturday (day or eve) to reduce travel problems.

    8. Get rid of conference title games. They increase revenue but do little else.

    9. Keep the current playoff format of 3 rounds. If it were reduced to just 2 rounds you wouldn’t have seen Fairfield Prep in the LL finals or Brookfield in the M finals (and yes I know Brookfield got blown out, but St. Joe’s was going to blow out anyone in Class M this year – PERIOD). I also think with the district scheduling format you’d probably have a much more balanced field and a clearer picture of what would happen when playoff time rolls around.

    10. During the quarter and semi round of the playoffs stagger times so that people can get around to see different games. The CIAC this year had all the semi’s at the same time slot on the same day. Coaches, players like to scout a possible future opponent, fans like to take in more than one game at playoff time – it would help keep gate receipts up, even if only marginally.

    • ter says

      this is a major change to make to a system that does a pretty good job of putting out a good product every season. by no means is it perfect but it is certainly not broken. this format has only been in place for a few years so technically it is still a work in progress. its going to need some tweaking to scheduling and maybe having all the games at one site is not the best idea even though it is pretty cool to be able to see every game without going anywhere.

    • Matt Glasz says

      It appears that a major change is exactly what the CIAC is looking for. Unfortunately, they seem to be more concerned with altering the calendar than creating a more equitable system.

      I agree with much of what Tom wrote with the exception of eliminating Thanksgiving.

      Start the season on the first Friday of September. This year that would allow 13 weeks to play 11 games. Play 6-7 District games, 3-4 games out of District (but within the same Class) plus Thanksgiving Day.
      (Another unintended benefit of a District model is it eliminates the need for conference title games.)

      I don’t see a problem with the current playoff format. I think expanding the playoffs to 8 teams per Class was an excellent change and would hate to see that reduced back to 4.

      This would mean only 8 (roughly 5%) of teams would play 14 games, 16 teams (11%) teams would play 13 games and 32 teams (22%) would play 12.
      The remaining 114 teams (78%) would play 11 games. Obviously these numbers would decrease to 13, 12, 11 and 10 games respectively in a more traditional 10 game regular season.

      Do I think a District model will be implemented? Unfortunately, no.
      Do I think Thanksgiving football will be relegated to an exhibition in the middle of the playoff season? Sadly, yes.

  21. Coach14 says

    Once CIAC expanded the playoffs, the season should have started a week earlier, the week after school started NOT two weeks.
    Don’t dispense with rivalries on Thanksgiving even if the stakes are riding as to whether a school makes the playoffs or not. Maybe dispensing with Conference Championships is a more feasible way to go.
    As far as worrying about the weather, as it was stated in another post, this is New England, this is Connecticut, November and December are possible snow months – stop being over reacting with the weather.


    Thanksgiving games draw large crowds because of the time of year, not the game. College kids, alumni and relatives are in town visiting family and go to the game to see people they haven’t seen in a year or two. They are not necessarily at the game to watch the game. It is a social event more than an athletic event. Crowds on TDay will always be larger than other regular season games because of the long holiday weekend. If Ansonia and Naugatuck played a week earlier they would still draw a large crowd because of the competitiveness of the game as well as their traditional rivalry. Same for New Canaan and Darien. People will go to those games no matter when they are played.

    So, play your rival at some point earlier in the season and save TDay for the first round of the playoffs (the last regular season games could be on the Saturday before TDay). Teams that don’t make playoffs and need a football fix before eating their turkey can go see a playoff game.

    • ter says

      i agree that people would still go to those games whenever they were played but it would still be on a much smaller scale and would suck all the tradition out of it. i dont think nearly as many people would make time on thanksgiving to go see ansonia play prince tech in the 1st round as they do for naugy. some of these games have been going on for hundreds of years and are some of the longest running games in the country. i think NFA/New London is like the 5th longest running game in the country and ansonia/naugy derby/shelton are not far behind. these traditions are something that should be held onto, not just thrown away because of one snowstorm one year that almost ruined the season. something needs to change but i dont think that is the answer. also now your sharing your biggest gate of the season with the CIAC when thanksgiving pretty much pays for alot of schools entire season.

  23. fciac jr says

    No change is needed except to start the season Labor Day weekend and let them practice a week or two earlier. Heck, a few teams are practicing anyways without pads and just call it “Captain’s Practice” along with passing league. This is New England, the storm was a major storm that postponed the LL game, may not happen again. CIAC needs to stop panicking because of one week and not make major changes because of this.

  24. Mike says

    Is it crazy to think that they could tell teams that qualify for the playoffs they would have to move TDay games to the Saturday before and then play the playoff games on Friday after Thanksgiving? That way if both teams didn’t make the playoffs (many teams) they could still play on Thursday and the playoff teams would play on Friday so they could still get good crowds because of the kids being home for the long weekend. This Semi’s could be the following or Wed. which would then give the teams that make the finals 10 days off before playing the finals. I know that the season would end the same weekend, but that is only 8 teams playing at that point. I also think they should start the winter season a week later especially with christmas vacation allowing 3 games that week or just get rid of Basketball league tournaments and end their season a week later. Basketball has such a long time off after the regular season ends and the tournament begins. For any of the teams that don’t make their conference tournament they are off for like 2 weeks before playing the first round of the state games. Just an outside the box thought.

  25. ter says

    i know that right now the options being presented to the athletic directors are a 9 game regular season and playing the thanksgiving games on veterans day weekend. with playoffs starting thanksgiving week or possibly going back to the 4 team playoff format.

  26. John Hannon says

    Season should start Labor Day weekend eliminate multiple scrimmages and start one week earlier
    Eliminate all conference championships they are neutral and are non factor ranking /point wise. 10 game schedule max. Set up
    Round one playoffs on thanksgiving day how exciting. Pair up playoff teams against each other on thanksgiving. The remaing teams affected with team pulled / rival pulled from them on Thanksgiving in playoff game , to be re seeded against other teams left with same situation try to match up and achieve re seeding process. by class then records if need be. With ten game schedule would allow time to re seed teams and evaluate exchange scout breakdown opponent with week and half. Thus would not effect 90 % of all other thanksgiving games /rivals most years.
    I am sure some road blocks. But a thought.

  27. Matt Glasz says

    Ned Griffen’s article in The Day includes a humorous quote by Lou Marinelli regarding the New Jersey playoff system. I looked it up and NJ actually has a laughable TWENTY FOUR “state champions”.

    I’m sure nobody wants or expects to see Connecticut expand THAT far but after looking into the number of state champions in states with similar populations I was surprised to find that we’re an outlier:

    24. South Carolina – 7 champs
    25. Louisiana – 9 champs
    26. Kentucky – 6 champs
    27. Oregon – 6 champs
    28. Oklahoma – 8 champs

    29. Connecticut – 4 champs

    30. Iowa – 4 champs (plus 1 for eight-man football)
    31. Mississippi – 6 champs
    32. Arkansas – 6 champs
    33. Kansas – 5 champs (plus 2 for eight-man football)
    34. Utah – 6 champs

    I’ve previously thought that 6 state champs in CT was too many, but this information has made me reconsider. Now, that wouldn’t solve the issue of scheduling, unless they went back to 4 teams per Class. But I doubt the CIAC wants to reduce the number of playoff teams from 32 to 24.

    How about 7 Classes: LL, L, MM, M, SS, S, and an Open Class to crown an undisputed State Champ? Hey, they said “everything” was on the table right?

    • Sean Patrick BowleySean Patrick Bowley says

      I think Lou was being facetious.

      And, remember, all of those states listed a much, much larger than Connecticut, even if populations are the same, they have exponentially more teams than CT.

      • Matt Glasz says

        Good point Sean; state population isn’t as good a measure as the number of high school teams that play football in each state.
        Here are the three states closest to Connecticut’s total number of teams via MaxPreps:

        South Dakota – 156 teams, 7 state champs
        Idaho – 140 teams, 6 state champs
        New Mexico – 123 teams, 7 state champs

        Not that we necessarily need to do what other states are doing but I was surprised to see that 6 state champions in a state our size isn’t an absurdly high figure after all.

    • says

      The only question that may bring about some confusion is what team get to play in the “open class” and who stays and plays for the class title. You can’t possibly take the top four(or basically top points in each class) and let them play in the open. How could you justify Capital Prep representing Class S when the open class division has come about because of 1 class S team and ONLY that team would fans want to see. If this is to be done right the classes need to be broken down into 8 ans only 2 teams play for that class title then the winner enter a State Open when those 8 play in a Top team playoff which would add 1 game to the season. The season could start a week early and the conference championship games can be laid to rest as they are only for making money period. If a team is going to states and has a chance to win I guarantee not one kid on the team could careless about a meaningless conf title game. If they are so important why don’t they count towards playoff rankings????? exactly. You could have Classes 1-8 Class 1 being the larger and so on. Seedings would be done by points just as they are done now meaning is Class 4 has 114 avg points and class 6 has 112.50 and are the second highest well then Class 4 is the 1 seed and 6 is the 2 and so on. #1 plays #8, #2 vs #7 and so on no matter what the size of the school and that would put all the bs to rest on who can play with who. If Class 7 or 8 the smallest classes (and roster size should be considered as well 2005-06 Woodland had 77 kids going against a 30 man North Branford team) manage to get to the finals against say Class 1 or 2 and win it will have all the what ifs and bla bla put to rest.

      • says

        I didn’t completely explain my reasoning for seeding. When I stated #1 plays #8 that was not classes it was seeds. Example is Class 3 is the highest scoring class and Class 5 is lowest that would mean Round 1 would be #1 seed Class 3 vs #8 seed Class 5 and if Class 4 is second highest scoring and Class 1 is 7th then #2 seed Class 4 vs #7 seed Class 1 and so on. I would think it would have the same amount of upsets as the classes do now as some of the lower seed in certain classes my have 2-3 losses but play in a tougher division and are 3-4 TDs better than the undefeated higher seed they are matched against. There’s really no simple way to handle the state tournaments and making them as fair as possible. The old system with 2 teams wasn’t the best way at all and to be honest probably the worst of them all with so many deserving teams being left in the cold. The main problem with it all is to not water down the product while trying to find a #1 overall team. To be honest I think that idea has to be scrapped once and for all. Its just not feasible to do in high school football nor is it worst scrapping the T-Day games for it. One more way is to go back to the 6 classes and have 6 teams in each with the top 2 seeds getting a bye. 24 teams play in the 1st round which 12 on bye for a total of 36 getting in only adding 4 more teams but also adding more parity to them. Folks let’s be honest some of the teams that had to move to Class L which is the most difficult jump don’t have a chance of winning and that’s not a knock it’s just that they can’t compete with bigger schools. If you have the 6 classes then 4 more get in and the top 2 are rewarded for a great regular season. There is no way to please everyone but getting a fair way to not leave some very good 7-4, 7-3, 8-3, 8-2 out is a good start hopefully we find the best case for all.

        This would as well show Ray ” Doo Doo ” Brown that he’s not ready for big boy football!

  28. JB says

    T-day is sacred ground. And 8 teams deserve a shot at their respective titles. The thing that was not a good change over the past few years was the “one site venue” … read the TrackBack article below. Coach Shea has the solution. Each playoff game is at a seperate venue that is most accessible for teams / fans and easy to pull forward game day if needed to avoid a weather problem.

    The CIAC should focus its attention on how to make the regular season more competitive and tighten the point system to better factor in strength of schedule … to make the first round of playoffs more competitive. Get rid of the 50 point rule and tell AD’s to schedule better match-ups in their leagues.

  29. ter says

    if they were to implement the open class, how would they determine what teams would play in it?? would it be like basketball where you can petition to play up or would the teams be assigned using the “success in tournament” factor now being used in hoops?? i just feel like you would struggle to find more than 8 teams willing to move up to an open class every year. u are almost be better off allowing schools to petition up to LL

    i would love to see something like this but i am a little skeptical that this system would work out the way we all want it to. how many S and M schools would want to move up every year?? pretty much only ansonia and st joes maybe another school every few years but your not getting to many from those classes.

    as for L and LL schools i feel like you would get hand new canaan and xavier etc every year but i think a lot of schools from these classes feel like if they win in L or LL what else do they have to prove by going to an open class???

    im not saying this like schools would be scared to play in it i just feel like most schools feel they get their chance to prove themselves throughout the year… so why not just open up LL to schools that want to play up instead of adding another class for a couple schools??

  30. Jim says

    Sean I don’t know if you have a voice at the table in this disscussion but I have a very unique prospective on this issue. As a former hs player in CT who relocated to NJ and am now am a assistant hs coach in NJ. In NJ non playoff teams do not play thanksgiving day games but instead play consolation games. Thier is absolutely zero excitement or enthusiasm for these games and it is like pulling teeth to even get your players to pretend like they care about it. Getting rid of Thanksgiving day rivalry games would be a colossal mistake as I have seen it first hand in this state!

    • Sean Patrick BowleySean Patrick Bowley says

      Well, I screamed loud enough and long enough to get a quarterfinal round and a reduction in playoff divisions once…

  31. JB says

    I agree with coach Shea about venue. We can leave everything untouched about T-day and the playoffs except just change that … and be flexible about moving the game forward by a day to avoid the bad weather. Done. Smart man Coach Shea.

    Now let’s talk about first round pretenders. Coaches – please talk some sense into the CIAC about the point system. We can’t keep having these horrible first round games from teams who shouldn’t have qualified. My formula is to require two intra-league crossover games and tweak the point system to factor in TRUE strength of schedule. Some conferences are too cozy and they need to be more competitive. Change the point system to reward TRUE competition and foster better match-ups … and please get rid of that stupid 50 point rule, it is embarassing.


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