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Studying geography: Could high school football consider regionalization as basis for playoff structure?

By Ned Griffen

Publication: The Day

Published February 06. 2014 4:00AM   Updated February 06. 2014 5:00AM
Sean D. Elliot/The Day
Norwich Free Academy's C.J. Jarmon, left, and New London's Jose Garcia go after a loose ball on Thanksgiving Day. Both teams made the 2013 high school football playoffs. Under a model centered around districting, the teams would remain in different enrollment-based classes, but still be able to compete on Thanksgiving.

Matt Glasz calls it his "nerdy little hobby."

He recently spent a couple hours each night for a week to create a state high school football playoff format by placing teams in enrollment-sized regional districts instead of leagues.

"My girlfriend would ask me, 'What are you doing? Are you doing work now?'" Glasz said. "'(I'd reply), 'it's high school football.'"

Glasz broke up the state's 146 teams into 20 divisions based on enrollment and location. He did so believing the CIAC would never use districting, but perhaps his "nerdy" labor of love isn't as far-fetched as he thought.

"I think the proposal is interesting," said Jim Buonocore, Ledyard's football coach, athletic director and a five-year member of the CIAC football committee. "I think there's a lot of validity to that type of system, enrollment-based and regionalized."

Buonocore plans to bring Glasz's proposal to the committee's Feb. 25 meeting for discussion.

"Wow, I'm pleasantly surprised," Glasz said. "The first step toward anything is just to pass it around and see what people think. That's awesome."

The committee has more pressing concerns at the moment. It must finalize an eight-division state playoff format that the CIAC Board of Control can approve for the 2014 season. It must also put together and sell a proposal to school administrators and coaches to hold state playoff quarterfinals so that they can shrink the number of divisions, but still have 32 participants.

"We have so many more issues staring us in the face," Buonocore said. "It would be neat to talk about regionalization and the state taking over the scheduling and slotting the teams that would make for a more competitive schedule week in and week out.

"You could make an argument in our sport more than any other CIAC sport that school size does have a lot to do with the competitiveness of the contest."

Glasz, the director of annual giving and athletic development at the Coast Guard Academy, was the starting quarterback at North Haven in the late 1990s, a two-time all-state selection and went on to play at Trinity College. The Indians were a Class M school when Glasz played, but they played much larger schools. They finished 8-2 during Glasz's junior season (1998) and just missed states. Their losses were to Class LL semifinalist Hamden and Hand, which had won the 1997 Class L title.

"It was frustrating," Glasz said. "We were just so close, and I felt like we were better than a lot of teams that were getting in, but the schedule we played was against a lot of Class LL and L schools while other teams were playing Class S and M schools."

Sean Patrick Bowley of GameTimeCT.com blogged last May about what the state might look like if districts were used.

Glasz read the story with great interest and took the idea further.

"I loved it," Glasz said. "It just made all the sense in the world. It seemed like a much more equitable way to qualify. ... (It's) common in other states.

"I don't want to say, 'disband the SCC or other leagues.' This is strictly for football purposes."

Glasz's model uses four enrollment-based classes (he found that six didn't work as well), each featuring five divisions. Each division would feature seven or eight teams. A team would play everyone within their division once, a game against a team from each of the other divisions, and the option to keep playing its Thanksgiving week opponent.

"It took longer than I thought it would," Glasz said. "I wanted to keep Thanksgiving Day rivalries intact. I think a major flaw (of districting) is you'd lose some of the regional rivalries. You wouldn't see New Canaan vs. Greenwich anymore.

"I tried to keep as many rivalries intact as I could. Like Fairfield Warde and Fairfield Ludlowe, it would be silly to try to separate them."

Glasz includes East Lyme, Fitch and New London into the Class L "Nutmeg" Division with E.O. Smith, RHAM and Middletown.

Ledyard, St. Bernard/Norwich Tech, Stonington, Valley Regional/Old Lyme and Waterford would be five of the seven teams in the Class M "Thames" Division.

Montville would be in the Class S "Timber" Division with other Eastern Connecticut Conference schools Griswold, Plainfield and Windham.

Norwich Free Academy, the ECC's only Class LL school, would be separated from its leaguemates. Glasz put them in the Class LL "Oak" Division with Glastonbury and Xavier, among others.

Glasz said that classes would be determined on a five-year "rolling average" to prevent teams from regularly jumping classes because of enrollment changes. The season would also start a week earlier to give teams a bye week.

All five division winners would automatically qualify for the playoffs. Glasz's model has a quarterfinal round, so there would be three wild-card teams per class, too. Those teams would be chosen by either the CIAC's current playoff point system or a computer model, such as CalPreps.com, which makes strength of schedule and conference a bigger factor.

"I liked having some wiggle room with the addition of wild-card teams," Glasz said. "It made sense to group teams by enrollment and geography. But the fact is that there are some areas of the state where the quality of football isn't as high (as others)."

Glasz said that friends who coach high school football liked the idea. He was surprised, however, that they wanted "the biggest playoffs possible," even if it meant starting the playoffs before Thanksgiving or ending the regular season before that holiday.

Buonocore said the football committee has discussed districting before, but it wasn't "met with great fanfare."

"I'm intrigued by it personally," Buonocore said. "I think everyone knows that it makes a lot of sense, so I do think it would be prudent to look at this closer once we get the playoff structure figured out."

n.griffen@theday.com

MORE

STATE FOOTBALL REALIGNMENT PROPOSAL

As the CIAC football committee ponders its future playoff format, a number of ideas will be discussed as it tries to reach a consensus for a permanent structure that would begin in 2015. Matt Glasz, the director of annual giving and athletic development at the Coast Guard Academy and a former quarterback at North Haven H.S., came up with this intriguing geographic and enrollment-based format. Five division winners in each class would qualify along with three wild cards (based on either playoff points or CalPreps.com's computer rankings), allowing the playoff format to remain at four divisions with 32 qualifiers and three playoff rounds:

Class LL (36 schools)

Apple Valley — Cheshire (798), Conard (773), Hall (725), New Britain (1,338), Newington (719), Simsbury (832), Southington (1,009).

Candlewood — Crosby (746), Danbury (1,468), Kennedy (717), New Milford (726), Newtown (905), Ridgefield (906), Wilby (702).

Housatonic — Amity (844), Fairfield Ludlowe (737), Fairfield Prep (896), Fairfield Warde (726), Hamden (944), Shelton (779), Trumbull (1,049), West Haven (794).

Oak — East Hartford (836), Glastonbury (1,077), Hartford Public (750), Manchester (889), NFA (1,071), South Windsor (723), Xavier (870).

Shoreline — Bridgeport Central (923), Greenwich (1,366), McMahon (793), Norwalk (770), Stamford (989), Staples (953), Westhill (1,039).

Class L (36 schools)

Elm — Bassick (645), Bunnell (590), Darien (659), Harding (685), Masuk (620), New Canaan (629), Stratford (556), Wilton (689).

Constitution — Avon (540), Bulkeley (549), Cheney Tech (534), Farmington (678), Wethersfield (617), Windsor (637), Windsor Locks/Suffield/East Granby (535).

Hammonasset — Branford (531), Guilford (551), Hand (617), North Haven (625), Notre Dame-West Haven (616), Platt Tech (554), Wilbur Cross (653).

Nutmeg — East Lyme (542), E.O. Smith (602), Fitch (593), Middletown (674), New London (536), RHAM (615), Vinal Tech/East Hampton (534).

Tobacco Valley — Bristol Central (681), Bristol Eastern (640), Maloney (618), Naugatuck (683), Platt (619), Pomperaug (652), Torrington (590).

Class M (36 schools)

Farmington River — Berlin (497), Gilbert/NW Regional (431), Granby (390), Lewis Mills (409), Watertown (467), Wolcott (427), Wolcott Tech (417).

Quiet Corner — Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton (528), Ellington/Somers (437), Fermi (499), Putnam/Tourtellotte/Ellis Tech (508), Rockville (497), Tolland (437), Woodstock Academy (514).

Quinnipiac — East Haven (468), Foran (491), Hillhouse (510), Law (466), Lyman Hall (468), Sheehan (437), Wilcox Tech (438).

Saugatuck — Abbott Tech (423), Barlow (487), Bethel (502), Brookfield (433), Bullard-Havens (388), New Fairfield (521), St. Joseph (440), Weston (395).

Thames — Bacon Academy (448), Killingly (440), Ledyard (465), St. Bernard/Norwich Tech (479), Stonington (398), Valley Regional/Old Lyme (409), Waterford (440).

Class S (38 schools)

Capital — Bloomfield (276), Capital/Classical/Achievement (239), Cromwell (270), NW Catholic (300), Prince Tech (359), Rocky Hill (345), Sport Sciences/University (360), Weaver (243).

Mountain — Canton (286), Holy Cross (325), Housatonic/Wamogo (333), Nonnewaug (353), Plainville (370), Sacred Heart (181), St. Paul (194).

Naugatuck Valley — Ansonia (323), Derby (188), Immaculate (184), Notre Dame-Fairfield (215), Oxford (289), Seymour (303), Trinity Catholic (227), Woodland (363).

Pequot — Coginchaug (279), Haddam-Killingworth (309), Hyde (161), Morgan (308), North Branford (312), O'Brien Tech (268), Old Saybrook/Westbrook (321), Whitney Tech (277).

Timber — East Catholic (339), Enfield (380), Griswold (311), Montville (372), Plainfield (371), Stafford/East Windsor (281), Windham (379).

Note: Enrollment figures are based on CIAC male students in grades 9-12 for the 2012-13 academic year.

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