WARWICK — Why are we in this division? If only R.I. high school athletic directors had a nickel for every time they heard that question from coaches, players, and parents.
With fall sports teams engaging in realignment talks with an eye towards how divisions will look beginning with the 2020 season, the Rhode Island Interscholastic Athletic Administrator Association Realignment Committee proposed three improvements to the current realignment formula that were presented one at a time to the RIIL’s Principals’ Committee on Athletics on Monday.
The PCOA voted unanimously (15-0) to allow the changes to be implemented right away.
“When we are doing realignment every two years, hopefully we have schools where they need to be … competing in the appropriate divisions and that there’s a competitive experience for those schools during those two years,” said East Greenwich athletic director Chris Cobain, also a PCOA member.
The most notable change to the realignment criteria has to do with the off-year of the two-year realignment window, which will be coming up as soon as the 2021-22 school year. The opportunity for movement will be granted as long as a corresponding move is part of the request.
The off-year movement would start by recalculating the realignment formula to include the first year of the current realignment. In January 2018, the Principals’ Committee approved changes to the realignment formula where the official breakdown included the following: 70 percent weighted win/loss record over the past six years in regular season league games, 10 percent enrollment, 10 percent winning percentage in league games over the previous two years, and 10 percent divisional tournament success factor.
Once the numbers are re-run, a survey will be sent to the schools that asks if you wish to switch divisions for the off-year. The results of the survey will be disseminated to the individual sport committee for review.
If one team wishes to move up, one must move down. This past November, the PCOA got ahead of the curve when they voted to allow 2019 Division III softball champion Ponaganset to move up to Division II for the 2020 spring season with Classical moving from D-II to D-III.
“Up until now, we said that you would have to live with it,” said Cobain. “Now, it’s about going back and applying some common sense and finding an appropriate match for that year. We know what schools to ask first to see if a mutual swap can occur … the bottom team in the first division and the top team in the lower division.”
Another piece of the realignment puzzle has to do with increasing the enrollment percentage from 10 percent to 20 percent for three RIIL contact sports: football, wrestling, and boys lacrosse. For those wondering why boys hockey isn’t grouped with the aforementioned listed sports, Cobain told the PCOA that while hockey uses the same statistical formula, they do not align with the formula.
“When it comes to hockey, wrestling, and boys lacrosse, it’s about drawing the line. Is there a competitive advantage or disadvantage?” said Cobain, noting that Ponaganset athletic director (and RIIAAA member) Tom Marcello was key in updating the realignment structure.
Increasing the enrollment piece will be accompanied by a 10 percent decrease to the six-year weighted wins component.
“By increasing the population back into those physical sports, we’ll give some of the schools who just by sheer numbers have an advantage over a smaller school,” said Cobain.
The third and final improvement includes the removal of the note from the sport committee guidelines that restricts the number of divisions based on team participation. For example, a sport featuring 30 teams must have two divisions or less, while more than 30 teams in a given sport must feature three divisions or less.
For collision sports such as football, ice hockey and boys lacrosse, the committee must approve a request to allow more than three divisions.