Though all proposals still need to be approved at the Colorado High School Activities Association Legislative Council meeting in January in order to become official, it looks like there are big changes coming for high school football in 2016.
Proposals that will change the Class 5A playoff and conference structure, as well as realign the other classifications, have been gaining traction to the point where their ratification appears likely. However, a major concern is that dissolving the current conferences could threaten traditional rivalries, which are what many prep sports fans like most about high school football and are often based in geographical proximity.
But as for the long-standing football rivalry between Fairview and Boulder, that one appears to be safe for now.
"When we go to build our non-league schedule, it will be our number one priority to get Boulder on the schedule," Fairview athletic director Terrin Kelly said. "Our relationship with Boulder High is so competitive and healthy for both schools. Every team will be doing what's best for their program but we're obviously going to do our best to keep at least that one alive."
The new proposal for 5A would drop the number of teams from 50 to 42, cut the playoff field from 32 to 16 and lengthen the regular season from nine to 10 games. The current 5A conferences, which are unbalanced, will be dissolved. The state will be realigned into seven six-team conferences by a waterfall system that ranks teams based on the new Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) and not by geographic distance areas.
Due to the relatively close geographical proximity among the state's 5A teams, the proposed waterfall appears to have received more positive feedback from teams than negative.
Fairview, for example, would be grouped with exciting new competition in perennial powerhouse Columbine (Littleton), Mullen (Denver)— an old Centennial League foe— and current quarterfinal team ThunderRidge (Highlands Ranch). The Knights would also still have nearby opponents Mountain Range and Northglenn in their league.
"We're pretty excited," Fairview coach Tom McCartney said. "We got a few teams that are still pretty close to home and a few that we're excited to go play. It's good to get some new competition and we have a lot of flexibility because you get five non-conference games."
Boulder, on the other hand, would end up in a league with four Denver-area schools and Doherty, which is in Colorado Springs and presents an unfriendly game-day travel time for both teams.
Resulting from the realignment of the smaller classes, Longmont would move down from 4A to 3A. Even though the school's enrollment increased slightly this year, and the Trojans finished as 4A's state runners-up last season and expect to finish similarly high in 2015, they're moving down.
"We knew there was a possibility it could be coming," Longmont athletic director Jeremy Burmeister said. "The Activities Association has worked to try to even out the number of teams in each classification and in doing so, when they looked at the football numbers and changed them, it ended up moving us and Silver Creek and Thompson Valley down from 4A to 3A.
"Last fall we got handled pretty well by Pueblo East, which is a 3A team. The proposal has some other teams moving down with us and there are already some very good 3A teams so we're not expecting a drop off in competition. We're looking forward to it."
Silver Creek won a 3A state championship in 2012.
Under the new enrollment cutoffs, Monarch would also move from 5A to 4A, where the Coyotes won a state title in 2012.
Proposals for the next football season have not been officially approved and still could be modified. Any agreements to play non-conference contests cannot be finalized until after the CHSAA Legislative Council meets on Jan. 28.