Pickens' Perspective: CIAC gets one right with football playoffs realignment
Score one for the CIAC.
The governing body that oversees the state's high school athletics hit the nail on the head, along with its football committee when it unanimously passed a proposal to realign for the 2010 football state playoffs.
Under the new format, there will be just four classes, and eight teams will qualify for the playoffs in each of those groups. This will allow 32 teams into the state playoffs rather than the 24 teams that qualify under the current six-group system. The quarterfinals would be played the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (the same day as the current semifinals) and the semifinals would be played on Saturday (when the finals are now). The state final games would be the following Saturday.
Don't get me wrong, there is still a lot in the state's football system that could use fixing up. Starting the second weekend in September is really not a good idea. I also honestly believe that playing three must-win games in the span of 10 days at the end of the season is insane, but if the public demands football games on Thanksgiving then so be it.
Let's face it, fellow "progressive thinkers," the Thanksgiving games are a cash cow. Any time you can get between 2,500 and 3,500 people to Fairfield for a high school football game, as we did yesterday, it cannot hurt the host team's bottom line.
But, let's get back to the task at hand. What this decision does is catch the state up with the times and keeps travesties from happening. If the current format were in effect this year, we'd have less controversy surrounding Bridgeport Central and whether or not the Hilltoppers will get in the state tournament. Maybe Greenwich wouldn't have been punished for losing two games to two of the top-10 teams in the state by a combined two points. Warde and Ludlowe could've even had a shot.
In other states it is simpler, but it ultimately comes down to what you want to sacrifice. If you play three rounds of playoffs in three consecutive weeks, you sacrifice Thanksgiving Day games. If you want to play on Thanksgiving and have three rounds of playoffs, your winter seasons suffer. None of these solutions are easy if you want to keep Thanksgiving games in the mix, unless we can find a way to get the holiday changed, which would take some serious doing.
Also, the conference championship games would be tossed aside if you played three straight weeks of playoffs, which anyone who was at Trumbull High School on Friday night can see wouldn't be good. The exposure that Staples and Bridgeport Central gave the FCIAC, between the sports writers and TV stations, can't be bad for anyone.
This new format seems to be the best compromise. It makes the regular season meaningful, but doesn't eliminate teams that play a competitive schedule. The way football's current playoff situation is run is so anti-CIAC. This year 17 percent of the state's football teams make the state playoffs. Sixty percent makes it almost every other sport.
I'm not here to bash the CIAC, though. It got one right and I give them credit. The CIAC just started the state playoffs in 1997 and after 12 years of just four teams it was willing to make a shift. The state athletics association should be applauded for putting together this proposal quickly and passing it for next year and the next five.
We'll just have to see how it plays out.