BOULDER — The Colorado High School Activities Association football committee met and formally made its league alignment recommendations for the next two-year cycle and, if passed, they would mean big changes for high school teams across the state.
The Boulder Panthers are one of Colorado's teams that will be most significantly impacted by the proposed changes, which must still receive approval by the CHSAA Legislative Council at its January meeting. Under the latest proposal for Class 5A football, which is designed to move away from the previous waterfall format and to help save struggling programs, the Panthers would join a 10-team league in which all of its teams finished in or near the bottom quarter of the classification's teams in 2017.
After winning just three of its 10 games this past fall, Boulder would now be in a league with Denver East, Smoky Hill, Rangeview, Adams City, Far Northeast, Westminster, Mountain Range, Prairie View and Northglenn, all teams that struggled recently. Theoretically, the Panthers should also be in an improved situation when it comes to their winning potential next season.
"I like it," Boulder coach Vincent Smith said. "I thought it was a good deal for everybody involved. Not just for us. When I look at the league up and down, I feel like it's a good situation for all the teams. You always like to play the local rivalries but I'm a transplant so I'm not so entrenched in the way things have always been to where I feel like some injustice is being done or anything like that. I'm just trying to get Boulder up to speed."
The remaining 30 teams in 5A would be split into six-team leagues based heavily on geography but also other factors, and the proposal would also expand the 5A playoff field from 16 to 24 teams. Under the proposal, Fairview and Legacy would be in the North League, with Horizon, Fossil Ridge, Poudre and Rocky Mountain.
The league champions in each of the six leagues, including the 10-team league, would receive automatic postseason berths while the next 17 qualifiers would be determined by the final RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) standings at the end of the regular season with the exception of the 10-team league.
Retaining a non-conference portion to its schedule, the Panthers would still have the ability to continue traditional local rivalries with area teams like Fairview.
Also under the proposal, Longmont, Silver Creek and Centaurus would move from 3A back up to 4A. Longmont would be in a league with many of the northern-area schools, including Broomfield. Silver Creek would join Skyline and Monarch in another northern conference. Centaurus would be placed in a league with schools from the north Denver and Aurora areas.
In 3A, local teams Mead, Holy Family and Frederick would be in a North Central league with Denver North, Skyview and Northfield.
Erie, which advanced to the 3A state championship game earlier this month, would be in another North Central league along with Niwot, Roosevelt, Fort Morgan, Northridge and Thompson Valley.