Schools likely on the border of the three potentially new classifications of Delaware high school football voiced concerns Thursday during the DIAA Annual and Board of Directors Meetings.
A subcommittee of the Delaware Association of Athletic Directors has been working on a three-class structure, to replace the two divisions Delaware has had since 1971.
Under their math, schools would be split into three groups based on a criteria of 50% enrollment, 30% 3-year record, and 20% 5-year record.
The primary idea is to cut down on the 48% of high school football games in Delaware decided by 25-points of more during the past 5 seasons.
The loudest protest Thursday came from 2019 and 2020 Division 2 champion Howard, whose three titles in five years would move them from the small schools classification in the current system to Class 3A in the proposed system, with the other 11 coming from current Division 1.
Howard would be, by far, the smallest 3A school with just 875 students. The next smallest, St. Georges, has 1,090.
Where Howard gets flipped into 3A is the strength of a 28-4 record over the past three seasons, and 44-12 over the past five years.
In that time frame, Howard's win total has been buffered by a weak Flight B division that has seen just one other team, A.I. duPont in 2017, win a postseason game.
Howard has been competitive in the games they have played against teams that would be their peers in 3A, sporting a 4-5 record. That includes two wins over St. Georges, and victories over Appoquinimink and Hodgson.
Dickinson Athletic Director Andy Dick, whose team plays in Flight B and last scored a point against Howard in 2016, said Howard isn't even right on the cut line.
"By every data point that we've gone by, Howard is ranked 9th in the state in regards to all the data points we're using in our calculations."
If Howard were to start in 3A, they could conceivably only last there for one cycle if they play closer to .500 football, with their lower enrollment taking more weight as the winning percentage came down.
Other concerns came from schools in districts that want to have all of their schools play at the same level. Members of the Brandywine, New Castle Vo-Tech, and Indian River districts played at different divisions in 2020. If nothing changes, Newark would move back to Flight A, adding Christina to the list in 2021.
Others have questioned the potential travel, especially at the 2A level where Red Lion would be the only District 3 (South) school above the canal, with their nearest rivals being Polytech and Milford, with a trip to Delmar looming.
Also, Friends and Tower Hill have bounced back and forth between 1A and 2A between the initial proposal to the board a month ago.
Tower Hill's website lists their upper school with just 326 students, way less than any traditional public high school. Friends' information isn't on their website, but their overall K-12 profile is similar, so again, they'd be smaller than most.
Where they hit the border to move up a class is with their win percentages. Friends has gone 38-11 since 2016, with Tower Hill going 33-19. Counting projected 2A teams (but not games against each other), Friends has gone 12-9, while Tower Hill sports a 10-5 record.
Former Salesianum AD Mike Hart said you can probably find a reason for just about every school to complain, but that it isn't a reason they shouldn't go forward.
"To think that we can come up with a perfect plan that will answer everybody's questions, we might as well go buy a lottery ticket tonight, because that will not happen."
Andy Dick added that some of the naysayers have been dragging their feet with complaints.
"We put this plan out to the ADs nine weeks ago and only heard back from a few of them. The email said if you have questions or oppositions to this, please respond. We got three positive statements and two negative statements. Only within the last week when this was going to come to fruition for the board to possibly make a decision did people come forward with a lot of negativity."
Caesar Rodney Superintendent Kevin Fitzgerald said he hopes to get the plan back in front of Delaware's heads of school in the next week, and would like to see a DIAA Board Meeting to consider several proposals for up-and-down votes in the next few weeks.
Among the proposals is one that would benefit Howard.
Under that plan, a 1,000 student minimum (or 500 for all-boys Salesianum) would be required to be classified a 3A school, while there is a thought of putting a 1,000 maximum for 1A.
That would move Howard down and bring Milford up in 3A, while Wilmington Charter would be ineligible for 1A. It's unclear which 2A school would be next in line for 1A consideration.
One other change made was to shrink the playoff pools at each level, with 6 teams instead of 8 at 3A and 1A, and 8 teams instead of 12 in 2A. That would restore a 10-game 2A regular season, as a 4th playoff week would not be required.
All classes would have open corresponding open weeks 1, 5, and 10, allowing for cross-class games, with the smaller 3A grouping having weeks 3 and 10 to schedule, and one or two open dates in 1A.
Delaware has been looking on football restructuring since 2015. At this point, any changes would be for football only.
3A District 1
- St. Georges
- William Penn
3A District 2
- Caesar Rodney
- Cape Henlopen
- Sussex Central
2A District 1
- A.I. duPont
- Mount Pleasant
- St. Elizabeth
2A District 2
- Saint Mark's
2A District 3
- Lake Forest
- Red Lion
- Sussex Tech
1A District 1
- Wilmington Charter
- Saint Andrew's
- Tower Hill
- Wilmington Friends
1A District 2
- Early College HS @ DSU
- First State Military Academy
- Indian River