Leading off today:
As I started sifting through the agenda for the NYSPHSAA's Executive Committee meeting scheduled for Thursday, one of my first thoughts was that this is going to be a big meeting on several levels.
There are big issues that are heading to a vote -- with last week's revelation about the boys basketball tournament bidding process adding to the pile -- and there's a big list of other business to wade through. And part of that list concerns sports that want to get bigger in the postseason: The lacrosse and football committees are pushing to grow by one class apiece in their postseason tournaments and hockey wants to add two games to the regular season.
The football proposal, though, is the most interesting. As much as anything else, the people responsible for running the sport are seeking a solution that will allow them to grow their way out of some legitimate safety concerns that also have competitive implications. To that end, state chairman Gary VanDerzee and his committee have proposed adding a sixth division -- Class AAA -- to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association tournament.
Make no mistake: What football has put forward is no copy-and-paste job, but rather a thoughtful proposal. I'm not sure it can gain approval in its first full trip through the process, but it's better than I expected when I first heard talk a couple of years ago about expanding to six classes.
For starters, the football committee is shunning uniformity. The classic formula for New York's multi-class state championships has been to divide schools roughly equally among its playoff classes. And for the most part, football has stuck close to maintaining a formula of roughly 20 percent of its teams per class since the tournament expanded to five classes in 1996.
Here's how the teams break down by section and class in the 2015 season:
|Section ||AA ||A ||B ||C ||D
|One ||19 ||26 ||15 ||5 ||2
|Two ||12 ||12 ||13 ||18 ||7
|Three ||13 ||10 ||16 ||16 ||10
|Four ||5 ||4 ||7 ||9 ||16
|Five ||15 ||12 ||10 ||14 ||17
|Six ||10 ||17 ||18 ||13 ||7
|Seven ||0 ||0 ||3 ||3 ||2
|Nine ||10 ||8 ||10 ||6 ||2
|Ten ||0 ||1 ||1 ||5 ||1
(The two Long Island sections are not included here since they are not part of the NYSPHSAA tournament that culminates each year with two days of title games in the Carrier Dome.)
If you throw out the smaller Class D and its 64 teams, the other classes balance rather nicely at between 84 and 93 teams -- not bad for a sport that's gone awhile without a tweak of its classification cutoffs, as well as one in which a lot of Class D teams have merged their way out of existence in the past five years.
What's being put forward now is a proposal that strives to maintain balance in the middle four classes. However, Class D would remain a bit smaller than the others -- and the new Class AAA is intended to be substantially smaller than any of the others.
The overwhelming reason behind the unbalanced distribution is to avoid monstrous differences in school sizes in the playoffs. The proposal calls for the minimum enrollment in Class AAA to be 1,100 students according to annual BEDS numbers and the maximum enrollment in Class D to be 224.
Had the committee taken the lazy route and just strived for roughly 16-17 percent of teams to land in each class, Class AAA's floor would have dropped and Class D's ceiling would have risen. And that's a problem. With safety concerns arguably at an all-time high -- the lawsuit filed by the family in the aftermath of Damon Janes' 2013 death broaches the notion that a disparity in school sizes could have been a contributing factor -- the last thing the NYSPHSAA wants is a Class D school with 100 students repeatedly going up against ones with 250.
At the other end of the spectrum, New Rochelle (2,590), Newburgh (2,521), Shenendehowa (2,407) and Monroe-Woodbury (1,728) are examples of schools that dwarf most of the opposition in a current Class AA with an enrollment