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CIAC football committee weighing some options for the future

By Ned Griffen

Publication: The Day

Published March 07. 2013 4:00AM
Co-op/technical school, open divisions discussed

No CIAC tournament is more exclusionary than football's because only a small percentage of teams qualify.

The CIAC's football committee has tried to alleviate that problem, discussing two ideas: an all-co-op/technical school division and an open division featuring the state's eight best teams, regardless of size.

"We've brought it up," New Canaan High School coach Lou Marinelli, the head of the football coaches committee, said. "At the next meeting, I'm certainly going to bring it up."

Teams must win at least 40 percent of their games to qualify for the state tournament in other CIAC sports.

Thirty-two of 146 football teams qualify for states (21.9 percent). There have been numerous instances where a one-loss team didn't make states.

"Farmington was one of those teams (in 2011)," Marinelli said. "They (were 9-1 and) couldn't get in because of playoff points. You feel bad for a team like that."

Nothing could be changed until the 2015 season because the CIAC and its football committee are three years into a their five-year agreement using the present system - four, eight-team divisions.

The playoffs previously had six, four-team divisions.

"I know we're not going to get both," Hand of Madison coach/committee member Steve Filippone said. "The most likely scenario is that we'd get some movement on the co-op division I think, but I'm not dismissing in any way, shape or form an open division because I feel there's a lot of good feeling about that."

The open division would not only just allow eight more teams into the playoffs, it would settle all No. 1 debates on the field and pique interest amongst football fans.

Filippone said that a BCS-formula could be created using The Day's Top 10 state coaches poll, the New Haven Register media poll, and Ned Freeman's computer rankings for MaxPreps.com and CalPreps.com. A coaches committee would then seed the eight teams.

Teams wouldn't be able to opt out of the open division.

"The arguments against the proposal is that picking the top eight teams is subjective," Filippone said. "I don't know if that's legitimate.

"The other is it would water down the four divisional championships. My answer to that is a young football player in the state of Connecticut can say that he's a state champion and is going to feel very proud of that. When he's getting dressed for that game, he isn't thinking, 'Oh, well, Xavier (of Middletown) is playing in the open division, they're in our division, and we'd get our butts kicked if we played them. He's not thinking about that. He's thinking of playing for a state championship."

Co-op and tech school teams have struggled greatly in the tournament. They're a combined 3-22 since the CIAC began the playoffs in 1976. The Valley Regional/Old Lyme co-op is responsible for two of those wins.

Marinelli has seen co-ops struggle firsthand - his team beat Coventry in the 2006 Class MM semifinals, 49-14.

"I don't want you thinking I'm a snob saying that they'll never beat us, or that they've never beaten good teams," Marinelli said, "But they'd have more of a chance at winning a state championship in their own division. Hopefully in the future, we could go more in that direction."

Coventry had a 37-man roster when it played at Hand in the Class L quarterfinals. Hand had 62 players.

"I think it would give them a chance to compete," Filippone said of a co-op/tech division. "Maybe they win a state championship, now they have momentum, and that could give them some edge to build a program. I think there's a lot of ways to look at it."

n.griffen@theday.com

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