Above: Matt Glasz’s discusses the ‘District Model’ on CPTVSports’ Game Time, March 6.
Editor’s Note: Playoff proposals in Connecticut high school football are nothing new. But the CIAC’s recent decision to scrap its 4-Class, three-round set up in favor of an eight-division, two round playoff for 2014 in the name of safety, has ratcheted up the debate again.
Combined with the idea that Connecticut’s league structure already creates unbalanced playoff results, writers, coaches and fans have produced a myriad of proposals designed to fix the system once-and-for-all.
One such proposal — perhaps the most radical of them all, for this state at least — has been making the rounds again after we first posited the idea in May of 2013 at Connecticut Post.
It’s called ‘The District’ model, which is a system used by most of the country’s state associations. It abolishes the traditional football leagues and reorganizes the state’s playoff classes into divisions, whose winners then qualify for the state playoffs based on standings rather than playoff points.
Matt Glasz, who starred as a back at North Haven in the late 1990s and is now the Director of Annual Giving and Athletic Development at Coast Guard Academy in New London, has imagined what such a system would look like. He’s produced his own districts formats and a scheduling formula and has been championing the cause across the state’s media.
A few coaches from across Connecticut have warmed to Glasz’s idea. We’ve received a few emails from some asking to know more about it. So we asked Glasz to present his here in its entirety, which he graciously has done:
An Analysis Supporting a District Model for Connecticut High School Football
The Connecticut high school football landscape is comprised of eight leagues/conferences that range in size from 12 to 32 teams (graphic at right).
This format is based largely on tradition and convenience. The NVL can trace its roots to the turn of the 20th Century with the league officially forming in 1930. The ECC was founded in 1934 and the FCIAC was formed in 1961. Even the relatively-new SCC is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
As more schools in Connecticut began to field football squads, new conferences formed, merged, and realigned each with varying rules on membership, format, scheduling, etc.
Most leagues consist of schools from the same geographic region regardless of their respective student body sizes. Others are spread throughout Connecticut but generally have similarly sized enrollments.
For example, the FCIAC schools are all located in Fairfield County but range in size from Class S, Trinity Catholic (male enrollment – 227) to Class LL, Danbury (male enrollment – 1,468). Meanwhile, 19 of the 21 Pequot Conference schools are in either Class M or S but they are spread out across six different counties.
Another discrepancy between the various conferences is that each league uses a different methodology to craft their divisional formats and schedules.
The SCC, CCC, and ECC are divided by enrollment using 4, 6, and 3 divisions, respectively. Meanwhile, the CSC (another league spanning six counties) does not have any divisions among its 12 members which vary in size from Class L to S.
The collectively inconsistencies in the membership, alignment and scheduling of these different conferences has created a flawed system that perpetually benefits some to the detriment of others.
To correct these flaws, the current format must be improved so that we have the most equitable system possible for scheduling opponents and qualifying teams for the state playoffs.
To that end, the institution of a ‘District Model’ based upon the unbiased measures of enrollment and geographic location is necessary.
Larger schools have an obvious competitive advantage against smaller schools because they can draw from a larger pool of athletes.
There are, of course, exceptions. A handful of smaller schools can hold their own against those with larger enrollments. However, when we examine the three Connecticut conferences that align themselves by enrollment the data reveals that, in fact, smaller schools are barely competitive with their large school counterparts.
Over the past three seasons the smaller divisions within the CCC, ECC and SCC went a combined 63-162 against opponents from larger divisions. That’s a winning percentage of just .280 for the smaller schools.
The current model benefits larger schools that regularly compete against schools with much smaller enrollments.
Conversely, small schools that annually play larger conference opponents face an inherent disadvantage compared to small schools that play other small schools.
A District Model would group similarly sized schools from the same geographic region, alleviating the inequity of smaller schools playing disproportionately larger schools. It also eliminates the unfair advantage of larger schools regularly competing against much smaller schools.
- Newtown, last season’s Class LL No. 1 seed, played just one Class LL school in the regular season. Seven of its remaining games were against Class M or S schools.
- Platt, the Class L No. 2 seed, played only one Class L school. All 10 of its remaining regular season games were against Class M or S schools.
- Norwich Free Academy, the Class LL No. 5 seed, lost its only Class LL game. Five of its remaining games were against Class M or S schools.
All three of these teams lost their opening round playoff game. I’m not insinuating that these teams were undeserving of a berth in the playoffs. My point is that we should provide a better format for these, and all, teams to prove their worthiness against the same schools vying for a spot in the postseason.
The irony is that we’re already using this model… sort of. Every year teams are divided by enrollment once they make the state playoffs. Why not use enrollment to determine how teams qualify for the playoffs?
I propose keeping the traditional structure of four Classes: LL, L, M, and S. Divide each Class into 5 Districts that are based primarily on geographic location with a preference toward keeping traditional rivalries intact whenever possible.
The Districts that I put together are based on 2013 enrollment figures, however, if the CIAC adopted a similar model I would recommend using a multi-year average to determine a school’s Class and reevaluate every 5 years or so to limit a school from frequently changing their Class designation.
Here’s what the four playoff divisions could look like (click on each image for full size).
The regular season would start the first Friday of September, providing 13 weeks to play 11 games (or 12 weeks to play 10 games depending on how the calendar falls). This allows for a bye week and a week off prior to Thanksgiving.
Each school would play all 6 or 7 teams in their District plus 3-4 games against opponents from other Districts in their Class.
Those match-ups would be based on win-loss records from the previous two seasons (similar to the way the SCC schedules its Division I and II crossover games). This helps ensure many of the top teams in each Class will be competing on a yearly basis even if they are in different Districts.
The winners of each District would automatically earn a state playoff berth.
Three additional wild-card teams, as well as tournament seeding, would be determined using a point system similar to the current CIAC model. I would also be open to the possibility of implementing the CalPrep.com rankings to account for discrepancies in strength of schedule.However, with all schools competing against teams from their own Class this would be less of an issue than under the current league/conference model.
In any proposal the issue of Thanksgiving football will be hotly debated. It’s the most unique aspect of Connecticut high school football I elected to keep meaningful games on turkey day intact.
Aside from providing a much-needed financial boost to high school athletic programs, many of these rivalries are entrenched in the fabrics of their respective communities.
I believe there should be a place for Thanksgiving football in any proposal and have therefore included the option for schools to keep their traditional rivalry game even if their opponent was from another Class.
Determining how outcomes of those games would affect playoff points is admittedly tricky and even contradictory to the rationale of the District model. However, I just wasn’t willing to eliminate the tradition of the Green Bowl, NFA-New London, Ansonia-Naugatuck, and so many others. The most likely solution would be to use the current system of qualifying points earned for defeating an opponent in a Class larger or smaller than your own.
Aside from seeding, this proposal is largely unrelated to the playoff format discussion.
Personally, I find the 2014 plan to crown 8 “state champions” including two from each Class to be absurd. I understand why you can’t conduct a three round playoff in two weeks. I don’t understand why the championship games can’t be played the following week?
It would affect only eight teams. That equates to roughly 5 percent of the schools that play football in Connecticut. Do you think those kids would rather be preparing for a state championship game or practicing free throws in preparation for a scrimmage?
Keep Thanksgiving football.
Keep 32 playoff teams.
Keep 4 state champions.
If it snows, grab a shovel.
The biggest downside to a District model is that we lose some traditional rivalries. For example, West Haven vs. Notre Dame of West Haven and New Canaan vs. Greenwich would not be played.
However, I think keeping Thanksgiving rivalries is a fair concession. How many legitimate rivals can one school really have anyway? And think of all the terrible mismatches that would be eliminated: No more SCC crossover games!
Another issue that has been raised is an increase in travel. In my opinion, this is laughable. Games played in-District are all within the same geographic region. That’s the same as it is now and actually an improvement for Pequot and CSC teams.
For those 3 to 4 intra-District games, half will be played at home. We live in the third smallest state in the union so realistically we’re talking about a maximum of one or two games per season that a team would drive an extra half hour. This should not prohibit the introduction of a far more equitable scheduling format.
This doesn’t solve the question of who’s No. 1. In fact, this model would likely make it harder to gauge how teams from different Classes would stack up against one another. But that’s not the job of the CIAC. The media and coaches polls are conducted merely to sell newspapers. The CIAC is tasked with creating a format to crown state champions.
In addition to being the most equitable system, think of the games we’ll get to see week in and week out.
Who wants to watch West Haven beat up on Foran or NFA throttle Windham? Especially when you consider the alternative could be an inter-District game between the Westies and Staples or the Wildcats battling Xavier for a District championship.
We get more competitive games across the board and a weekly dose of high profile match-ups usually reserved for the state finals.
The bottom line is that this model just makes sense. Like sized schools should compete against like sized schools, especially when those outcomes determine who gets to compete in the states most exclusive postseason.
There is no perfect system and every proposal will have its flaws.
Thankfully, the games will go on regardless of what format is in place and we’ll all have games to watch. But keep in mind that every year around the state athletes and coaches, most of whom are unpaid volunteers, will spend thousands of hours preparing and competing. I think all of their hard work, talent and dedication should be rewarded by providing the most equitable system possible.