Colorado football may become more competitive starting next year.
Thursday the Colorado High School Activities Association football committee unanimously voted to recommend a 6A classification for football, which, if approved by the legislative council, would help more evenly distribute talent among classes and reduce the size of each classification.
The CHSAA legislative council will meet in the spring to discuss the recommendation. If approved, the addition would expand the sport to eight classifications — 6A, 5A, 4A, 3A, 2A, 1A, 8-man and 6-man — in the fall of 2022.
The goal, according to CHSAA football commissioner Adam Bright, is to make classifications more competitive and create some “equity amongst our classifications,” Bright said.
Traditionally football classifications are separated based on school enrollment, with little buffer for schools on the cusp between two classification standards. The football committee, however, is searching for ways to establish classification standards beyond enrollment numbers.
According to a story published to CHSAANow.com, factors such as on-field success, participation rate, geography, enrollment trends and socioeconomics of a school’s population could become criteria to classify a program in the future.
“What I’ve noticed is the disparity between the upper teams and lower teams continues to grow, and the gap in between the top football school and the bottom has gotten bigger," said Chris Noll, the CHSAA football committee chair and district athletic director for District 11 schools.
"This proposal is a systematic change, and we agree the system is the step in the right direction."
Noll said he believes open enrollment, health risk data, and varying levels of program resources such as trainers and nutritionists are all factors that have contributed to the increased disparity between the state's most successful programs and those that continue to struggle.
According to CHSAA the change would reduce the size of all classes, rather than moving the largest schools into the state’s highest enrollment classification. Currently classifications have between 40-42 competitive teams. CHSAA estimates the addition of 6A would reduce each classification to approximately 36 teams each.
From 1990-93 CHSAA offered a 6A classification, and proposals to reintroduce it were shot down as recently as 2019. In 2019, the football committee actively opposed the proposal, as the 6A classification would have been introduced only for the postseason. According to Noll the proposal suggested taking the top 5A teams at the end of the regular season and moving them to a 6A playoff.
As a result of CHSAA’s 2020 football alignment, the Colorado Springs area has just one team left competing in the state’s largest classification: Doherty. The Spartans have struggled in 5A in recent years, with a combined nine wins since 2018. Due to enrollment numbers, Fountain-Fort Carson dropped down to Class 4A in 2020 after competing in 5A for nearly a decade. The Trojans found immense success after the move, making it to the state semifinals for the first time since 2003.
More updates from the football committee
The CHSAA football committee also proposed hosting the state football championships on the same weekend, similar to the 2020 championship weekend at CSU-Pueblo, which featured all seven state championship games from Dec. 3-5.
The committee voted and approved a 10-week regular season for all classifications and voted to allow 24 teams to qualify for the postseason in each classification, expanding the playoff pool for 3A through 6-man from 16 teams to 24. Qualifying numbers for 5A and 4A will remain the same.
These changes, if approved by the legislative council, would open the door for the possibility of a single-site championship weekend moving forward.
For the 2021 season, the football committee approved 3A-1A, 6-man and 8-man championships remaining at CSU-Pueblo, while the 4A and 5A championship games will return to Mile High.