What if CT played football strictly by class size?

WhatifIT IS, perhaps, the singular biggest complaint pervading the high school football landscape, particularly if you’re that lonely goldfish swimming in a shark tank.

Why don’t Connecticut high school football teams mostly play against schools of their own size?

Following constant complaints on this here space, Why must tiny, little ol’ Class M St. Joseph play a stacked schedule of Class LL teams in the FCIAC while its fellow Class M playoff contenders in the Pequot get to play against fellow pipsqueaks?

Or, to flip that equation, why does Class L Masuk or, even worse, Class LL Newtown or NFA have it so easy playing a wealth of Class M and Class S schools, arguably increasing their chances of reaching their respective playoffs while fellow behemoths must run a gauntlet of like-sized schools?

How is Connecticut’s football organization more like the NCAA than the NHSF? Why is it comprised of unwieldy leagues and confounding playoff systems and (gasp!) yearly bouts of confounding realignment?

St. Joseph won't have to deal with teams like big, bad Greenwich anymore in a class-based regular season.

St. Joseph won’t have to deal with teams like big, bad Greenwich anymore in a class-based regular season.

Can’t we play football like real football states which organize their schools into regional ‘districts,’ or ‘sections,’ based solely on size with the standings determining the playoff participants rather than some confounding BCS-styled playoff formula?

What if we did?

What if we created districts out of our four classes, and had the winner of each division, and maybe a couple of wildcards, qualify for the state playoffs?

Look no further.

We here at football central already have worked out some hypotheticals for you: We took each of the four class divisions from last year and attempted to group them into six (or, in Class S’s case, seven) districts based almost entirely on geography.

Schools will (more or less) play their neighbors and actually win its regional district to reach the state playoffs.

Simple, right? Problem solved.

Eh, not entirely.

For one, similarly-sized schools are literally all over the map. We discovered either too many schools were bunched into one region (meaning one unlucky school must find another district) or there were one or two schools far off by themselves, with no natural class rivals nearby (meaning their district games will be far, far away).

What realignment? Under our play, it'll remain a rivals paradise among the the Class S Naugatuck Valley teams.

What realignment? Under our play, it’ll remain a rivals paradise among the the Class S Naugatuck Valley teams.

Some districting worked perfectly — The Naugatuck Valley schools or the Shoreline Schools in Class S, for example. But that was rare. Most took some moving around. A solution to creating a decent geographic mix often ripped a another apart.

Sometimes we had to break up a pair of natural, geographic rivals in favor of keeping others. Sometimes we had to search halfway around the state just to complete a “regional” district.

But we pressed on, no matter the absurdity.

We didn’t let our emotions get the best of us. We didn’t care if a district pitted one state power with a bunch of weaker ones, virtually guaranteeing that program would probably win ad infinitum. But we did try to maintain a balance. We also desperately tried to honor rivalries.

We organized like this:

With 36 schools in each class we decided on six schools per district. Class S proved to be trickier since it has 38 schools, so we divvied Class S into four divisions of five schools and three divisions of six (meaning they’ll have to play one extra district game).

Now, the three larger divisions would play five district games each and could fill their schedules by playing one crossover game against the remaining five districts (5 + 5 = 10). Maybe you could create those crossover games based on previous years’ results. Maybe.

We didn’t want to get too wrapped up in trying to figure out a playoff system based on these districts. But we had to have a rough outline, at least.

So here it is: Six district champions qualify for the playoffs. That would leave two spots. Maybe we could introduce a pair of wildcards by plucking the best two overall records from the second-place finishers. Then we could seed the field and off we go.

In Class S, you’d have seven division winners and a wildcard. We did run into a problem on scheduling. There are too many teams and unbalanced districts in Class S to fill everyone’s schedule easily.

Issues like this can topple the whole Jenga stack.

I’m sure it can be done somehow. Maybe we should expand the leagues a bit? Or contract the playoff divisions to three… Or maybe oust the Tech Schools and give them their own tournament… Or maybe oust both the tech schools and the Catholics…

Or maybe this whole thing is dead on the operating table.


This is merely a think piece, a very rough outline thrown together one rainy May afternoon/evening/night. By no means do we actually condone such an massive overhaul.

We’re just having a little offseason fun here.

The idea is to present a rough draft and then let you, dear readers, offer your own tweaks or ideas, as zany as those might be.

You don’t get much zanier than this.

So let’s take a look, shall we?

What would Connecticut football look like if it was organized into class-based districts?

How about this?


DistrictMapLL title=


This was probably the easiest of the bunch.

New Haven schools were grouped, lower Fairfield County schools were grouped, Danbury region schools were grouped, Waterbury schools were grouped, West Hartford and East of Hartford.

The only real problem that arose was too many LL schools in lower Fairfield County, not enough in Danbury. So we grabbed the Norwalk schools and had them linked by Route 7, the rest along by I-95.

Fairfield Prep (an SCC school) and Trumbull (No Central rivalry, but how ’bout a rivalry with Shelton?) were pushed further east. Hartford County was divided in two.

NFA, being the only LL school far east of the Connecticut River, had to take a suck in this equation. We fit them into the closest league possible, which actually doesn’t look half bad. At least they have Route 2.


DistrictLmap title=

All of the Class L FCIAC schools formed one district. Done. Poor Platt Tech and Wilby got folded into a regional grouping with Bunnell, Masuk, Stratford and Pomperaug (hey, at least those schools stuck together). New Haven’s Ls fit together perfectly.

The problems arose up north. We wanted Middletown and Meriden together. We also wanted Farmington and Avon together. Torrington really mucked up the works, though, being all out in the middle of nowhere. So we decided to split north-south, with Meriden-Middletown forming the dividing line. We folded Platt/Maloney into a league with Bristol Eastern, T-Town and Avon-Farmington.

The other district, running north-south, encompassed northern Hartford Class Ls with Middletown. Rockville was the odd-man out and was shifted to the Eastern league. But again, at least Route 2 is nearby. East Lyme and Fitch have some traveling to do.


DistrictMMap title=


Here’s where the system started drifting into crazy land.

We started simply, grouping all six Class M Danbury area schools together and all six ECC Class M schools together.

Then the problems started. The Quiet Corner is Class M Central. There are far too many M schools for one district, so we had to start kicking out some of the fringes to help other leagues.

Poor Enfield. It’s position as the westernmost school of that group forced us to toss it into a Northwestern/Berkshire league with Wolcott, Watertown, Lewis Mills, Wolcott Tech and Gilber/Northwestern.

Same thing happened with East Haven and Vinal/East Hampton, they got sucked into a Wallingford/Berlin-centric league so we could form another around Milford.

St. Joseph, the only Class M school in the FCIAC, and their best friends, Bullard-Havens headed east into a league the three Milford schools and Hillhouse.


DistrictSMap title=


Outside of creating a true Naugatuck Valley league and a true Shoreline League, dividing Class S was an nightmare.

Plus, there was the 38-school issue. So we decided to break Class S into seven leagues — four 5-divisions, three 6-divisions — to make it a tad easier.

We started with the Naugatuck valley, kicking out St. Paul, Holy Cross and Sacred Heart to make it a 5-team division. We made Shoreline six by adding Coginchaug.

OK, so Holy Cross, St. Paul and Sacred Heart needed to get grouped with northwest schools Housy and Nonnewaug (sorry, guys. Geography) and, to balance it out, we threw Plainville in there since it’s a Bristol neighbor.

Hartford was a mess because there are approximately 800 magnet schools in that town. We tried several combinations, but ultimately decided to keep them together.

Cromwell and Rocky Hill were dumped into that district as leftovers. They were originally part of a ‘Suburban’ Hartford league based around Bloomfield, NWC and East Catholic. Canton and Granby Memorial’s location far north made them the only choice to complete the Suburban league.

Griswold, Plainfield, Stonington and Killingly on the Eastern edge of the state needed one more. So we plucked Stafford seeing how Stafford really isn’t anywhere, either.

Finally, what the heck to do with the far western edge? Trinity, Notre Dame-Fairfield and Immaculate? The perfect alignment of NVL schools mucked this up. In order to keep Ansonia-Seymour-Derby-Oxford-Woodland together, we had to work around them. Thus, poor Hyde Leadership and Whitney Tech got kicked East into what we’re calling ‘Bizzaro’ District.

Eh, could have been worse.

Odessa Permian has to travel 2+ hours just to play district games in Texas. I think we can manage.

So there they are, your imaginary Class Districts.

Any questions?

“But Sean,” you ask. “What happens when a bunch of schools change classes from year-to-year?”

Then stop doing that every year. Maybe make changes every three, four or five years instead. I think that’s how New York does it.

“What if new teams are added? That happens a lot.”

Then just add them and readjust as it arises. I don’t know.

“What about rivalry games between schools of different classes? We’d still like to see Greenwich-New Canaan, Staples-New Canaan, Notre Dame-Hamden, New London-NFA, Central-Harding…”

Easy. Allow a couple of non-district weeks. We’re flexible. Teams don’t necessarily have to crossover to all of the other divisions. After all, you just need to win your division to reach the playoffs. So these games would have no bearing on if you reach the playoffs. (That might actually solve a lot of scheduling issues).

“What about Thanksgiving?”

Maybe we could make that one of the crossover weeks. Purely optional. Since the game wouldn’t count toward playoffs, it would actually allow the state playoffs to begin a week earlier.

Any other questions?

What do you think? Should we do this?

Would you like to see football reorganize by Class size?

View Results

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Sean Patrick Bowley

30 Responses

  1. Ryan says:

    Now this makes sense. Plus winning your district (conference/division) would actually mean something now. Up in the land of the Hartford Courant I think the way the districts are broken up give some schools a chance to make the playoffs that otherwise might not have a realistic shot. It also forces a school like Avon to have to compete against Farmington, Platt, and other schools its own size instead of beating up on Canton, Granby, and Stafford all season. Nicely done, would be even better if the CIAC actually used this.

  2. No way it’ll happen, unless the state steps in and abolishes the league fiefdoms and casts out their feudal lords.

  3. MJ says:

    One item is completely overlooked. Why should private schools and especially those that recruit be in the same division as public schools? It makes no sense. All the private schools should be in their own divisions. (probably 2 divisions: L and S). It is just not fair especially to the smaller schools that come playoff time, a school with 150 male students is up against a school with 110 male students and 40 students admitted for athletics.

  4. Section1Guy says:


    This is great. I play this game with New York all the time and give myself a headache. It could be the massive size difference of states?

    New York is like Connecticut in that our sections have wayyyyy too much power. A balanced and fair state tournament will never be possible (and Long Island will continue to be left out) unless the NYSPHSAA could get rid of the sections.

    For the record, I enjoy the CIAC tournaments because multiple teams from the same leagues advance. In New York, you have to win your section/league or you’re out.

  5. It’s not overlooked. I mentioned it. You could either put them all in their own division, sure. Or just omit them completely.

  6. @Section1Guy – Thought about you the whole time I was writing it. I looked at New York a lot to see how they did it. I was operating under the assumption that the sections were all state-organized. If that’s the case, then why do they have so much power?

    And good point on the CT benefits, though I guess if we had wildcards that would alleviate the issue somewhat.

  7. UBilly says:

    I like the idea, especially where it comes to those teams that play smaller schools and rack up points to make the playoffs. I would miss the SCC battles during the regular season though.

  8. Observer says:

    MJ, which private schools are you proposing be removed? As far as I’m aware, there are no teams that play against public schools that actively recruit.

  9. JB says:

    Sean’s article is well thought out and I have always liked the idea of combining same-size schools into districts. But football programs would have to abandon their traditonal all-sports leagues, which will likely never happen (especially in the SCC or FCIAC). We are all hoping the cross-over “challenge” games prove successful and lead to a higher level of competition. That concept could be expanded across the entire state and then try to make it two games each year instead of just one … these would be very competitive match-ups like the current effort. Also, I think the CIAC point system should be tweaked to better incorporate “strength of opponent” regardless of in-league or out-of-league … adjustments are needed to combat the scheduling of far too many in-league severe mismatches. This could also, in extreme cases, lead to re-alignments requiring certain schools to join a more competitive conference in order to earn enough points to qualify for the LL / L states. This point total tweak plus in-class cross-over games would be good for both sides of the severe mis-match issue and make it more competitive to qualify for states. Heck, we might even be able to eliminate the 50 point rule at the same time.

  10. High School Football Fan says:

    Very good balance on Enrollment but how would these play out on the field ? Looking quickly over on some of these brackets and you can have a lot off non competitive games almost on a weekly basis.Next poll will be the 50 point rule again…

  11. No doubt. Then again, district games comprise only half the sked. It’s like needing to win pool play in the World Cup.

    After your district schedule, I’d say you start filling other weeks with crossover games against equal foes (1 v 1, 2 v 2, 3 v 3) and maybe count those toward Wild Card berths. Then leave two more open to maybe add a couple rivalry games with non-Class opponents.

  12. Heh. Talk about your perfectly-placed ads, I had to do a double take before I realized this had nothing to do with football:

  13. By the way: If you’ve noticed, you can attach avatars to your comments now.

    You just need to sign up for a wordpress account and upload one. (You can still remain anonymous.)

    Go here: http://wordpress.com

    Sign up and add your pic.

  14. swcinsider says:

    well done and long overdue lets get this done football fans

  15. johnnyribbs says:

    Pull out the tech schools and I think your on to something……

  16. MJ says:

    It is not removing private schools, it is merely making a separate division for schools whose student bodies are constituted in a different fashion. Public schools are not allowed to recruit players, while private schools do recruit. They already play under different rules, so it really makes no sense that they play in the same division.

    Tech schools – in a tech division
    Lg private schools – in 1 division
    Small private schools – in 1 division
    Then split up the remaining public schools based on size and geography (probably 3 sizes)

  17. Rob says:

    Excellent Idea. Too many times I hear parents(fans) complain about how far they have to go for their teams games. If you only ever lived in the state of Connecticut, you might not know just how silly that statement is. Any match up that pits teams of equal enrollment where you are traveling less than half the size of the state should be considered reasonable. I think the crossover games are critical. For example, I reside in the ECC and I would not enjoy the loss of games such as Stonington/Westerly RI, Fitch/Ledyard, or NFA/New London on Thanksgiving Day. 2 of those 3 are in the tops for the longest running annual matchups in the country. I do like the current predictability of the formula system for playoff consideration. It does have it’s flaws, like a dominate Pequot school can run the table in its current conference then run into a 2nd or 3rd place SCC team and look like they don’t belong. Which brings about discussion of Tech Schools, place them in appropriately sized districts and I think that their playoff berths will be deserved. #Colonelpride

  18. @MJ – That’s not bad. If you mean this way:

    Split publics into divisions. Take all of the privates, then divide them in half by biggest/smallest, drop biggest catholics in the largest public division, drop smallest catholics into the medium division, readjust the now-combined three Private/Public divisions, I think that’d be pretty fair. Have Techs play for their own title, giving State four champs: L, M, S and Tech.

  19. Dr. Von Nostran says:

    I still would like to see why the Catholic schools need to be treated differently. An argument based on numbers, not the theoretical makeup of the student body.
    Out of the 32 teams that qualified for the post-season, 3 were Catholic schools, and SJ and Trinity lost in the first round.
    Take a look at the records of ALL the Catholic schools, not just Xavier.

  20. old school says:

    i love the geographic system put into place by spb. i have said for a while the scc should go to divisions based on geography. this would put an end to the bickering between d-i and d-ii schools on the scheudling dilemma. you play the people near you and with this you play schools of your own size. i’m sure it will never happen, but it is a good plan.

  21. old school says:

    agree with Dr. xavier is the only catholic school that has dominated. figure the catholic schools in to this plan; no need to treat them differently

  22. MJ says:

    That’s exactly what I mean
    Champs for:
    Tech division
    Lg Private division
    Small Public division
    L Public (?4 geographically based divisions)
    M Public (?4 geographically based divisions)
    S Public (?4 geographically based divisions)

    Tech #1 vs 4, 2 vs 3. Winners play for championship
    Private School Divisions: same format as Tech division (2 champs)
    Public School: Top 2 from each region make playoffs and are seeded #1-8 with standard playoffs

  23. @MJ – see, I’m not advocating taking catholics out.

  24. Jack says:

    Very well done analysis! Having lived in Texas for a number of years, I chuckle a bit when people talk about travelling long distances for games.

    I remember telling my first battalion commander (he was from Texas)that I was a graduate of Southern Connecticut State College. He said, “profane expletive (fill in your favorite)”, “I didn’t think Connecticut was big enough to have a south!”

    However, tradition is a hard thing to let go. All the Thanksgiving rivalries and others are an important part of the memories of countless people. People who may only attend one game per year; that thanksgiving day game.
    Go Lavender, Go Blue, Go Chargers

  25. PrepFan says:

    No way the mighty FCIAC teams would agree. I mean, they might have to play THREE tough games a year.

  26. I’m actually surprised by the voting so far… Hmmm.

  27. CTFB12 says:

    What MJ is failing to mention is that the fact is private schools cannot recruit for sports in the state of Ct. I’m sure someone will say that they do, but so do some public schools!!! (Ie : Ansonia and Naugatuck ) If you put the catholics in their own league then that would make recruiting legal and I’m not sure any public wants that(see NJ private school). The enrollment of private and especially prep schools is rising

  28. Dr. Von Nostran says:

    2012 Results
    13 Teams, 6 of which have winning records.
    Combined record of 56-73 for a .434 winning %.
    That’s some terrible “recruiting” that’s going on.

    9-1 Xavier
    6-4 Prep

    4-6 NDWH

    8-2 SJ
    0-10 St. Bern

    8-2 Trinity
    7-3 NWC
    6-4 HC
    3-7 Sacred Heart
    2-7 St. Paul
    2-8 East Catholic
    1-9 NDFF
    0-10 Immaculate

  29. MJ says:

    It doesn’t matter if the recruiting is great or terrible. What matters is that the enrollment of private schools is very different. The general idea is to group schools according to similar size, and geographic location. So to ignore how that size is achieved or the geographic distribution of students misses the point of grouping similar schools. No one is saying private or catholic schools don’t belong in the league, just that similar to Tech schools that they should have their own division. It was only a couple of years ago that St. Joe’s was an S school, and in state playoffs they were matched against S public schools. I have no affiliation with S schools, but it doesn’t strike me as fair that a very small public school would be matched against a school who certainly admits a certain number of players to fill their football roster. And there is nothing wrong with a private school using some admission spots for athletes. They need some football players, just like they need some studfents who want to act in plays. Admission is not the 200 students who live closest to the school.

  30. fciac jr says:

    those that think these catholic schools recruit really don’t know what they are talking about. If a kid/parent is interested in a catholic school and contact the school, then yes, the school will open its arms to you. Heck, it isn’t cheap going there so why wouldn’t they.

    But to say they go out and scout kids is a joke as I have heard that for years and it usually comes from schools that get crushed by the catholic schools year in and year out.