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DIAA begins process of realigning football districts for 2023

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Football Generic 4

Less than two years after a major overhaul of the divisional structure of Delaware high school football, the DIAA is working on how they might make some edits.

A subcommittee of the Delaware Association of Athletic Directors tasked with looking at the structure of Delaware's three classes and scheduling presented a proposal for the DIAA Board of Directors Thursday.

DIAA Coordinator of Interscholastic Athletics Jed Bell, the former Head Coach at Woodbridge, said the two-year nature of football contracts -- typically home and away -- means now is the time to start considering looking at what changed in 2021.

"I think everyone knew it wasn't a perfect system, there was going to be some work that needed to be done to get it to the point where it needs to be. The nice thing about approaching the end of a 2-year cycle is it hits that reset button in regards to schedule, so now is the time to make changes as we see fit."

A formula mixing enrollment with 5-year and 2-year performance helped shape the current 3A (largest), 2A, and 1A classifications, with just a few teams moving by choice between the classes, including Cape Henlopen, who opted to go to 3A, and Howard, behind the support of several state legislators, being told they didn't have to be in 3A.

Ultimately, the DIAA settled on 11 teams in 3A, 21 teams in 2A, with 14 teams in 1A.

The odd numbers in the two biggest divisions proved to be a challenge for schedule makers already delayed in creating new schedules away from the conferences used in virtually every other sports.

To aid in scheduling the DAAD Committee took it upon themselves to schedule all of the divisional games, but with odd numbers in 3A and 2A overall, and the odd numbers of 7 teams in the divisions of 2A and 1A, there was always a team needing to find either an out-of-district, or out-of-class, game.

The committee is proposing making everything even, adding one team to 3A to bring them to 12, subtracting three teams from 2A to drop to 18, with two teams going to 1A boosting them to 16.

A survey was sent to DIAA Athletic Directors, asking them to ask their administrations about whether their team should be playing on a different level.

One team requested they should go from 2A to 3A, four teams felt they should go from 2A to 1A, while one team requested an interest to go from 1A to 2A. None of the teams were identified during the meeting.

The mobility is needed because circumstances can change dramatically for a program.

A.I duPont went 9-0 in the 2018 regular season and 8-2 the following season, but had to cut their 2021 season short due to a lack of roster size, and announced last month they will not play varsity football this fall.

Red Clay Superintendent, and DIAA Board Member, Dorrell Green said not playing a 2A Varsity schedule has actually helped interest in the sport at a school which has lost nearly 50% of its enrollment over the past 15 years. 

"Thankfully, now that school started, AI was able to get a lot of underclassmen and freshman to come out. They were originally not coming out because they thought they were going to have to play up."

Hodgson Athletic Director Dave Collins said that was a similar story they learned when hearing from his colleagues.

"We got feedback in that survey from two schools that said 1A saved their football programs. It allowed them to be competitive, the kids had fun again, they weren't worried about physically getting hurt, which was the intended purpose of 1A."

The Charter School of Wilmington was one of the 1A success stories. A school with a 20-game losing streak entering 2021 with just 7 wins since 2016 went 6-4 going from playing Diamond State Athletic Conference powers like Delaware Military Academy and Archmere to new 1A foes Christiana, Glasgow, and Polytech.

The committee's next task is to define what teams should move, with voluntarily movement being accepted for next year in the two-year cycle, while the plan is to go four years between major, mandatory changes, the life cycle of a student-athlete at a school.

"If a Class 2A team is applying to move down for safety reasons or not being able to complete a season, they will be given priority," Bell said, stating A.I. as a prime example.

DIAA said if the unidentified team backs away from its wish to go from 2A to 3A, they would use the records and enrollment from the first two seasons in a 50-50 split and then pick which team moves up. No team in the bottom half of the 46 teams in enrollment would be required to move, which would benefit smaller private schools.

In the 2A to 1A process, the two teams with the lowest in-classification winning percentage would be suggested to move down. If there is a 1A team willing to move up, the third lowest winning percentage would be the next time considered.

No team with a .500 winning percentage or a playoff qualification will be considered to move from 2A to 1A.

Any team wanting to move from 1A to 2A would need to fill out the application, and if there are multiple teams, they would look at the teams and try to find "the best fit."

The approved plan is for schools wishing to reclassify to apply beginning on the first Monday in October through the day after the final game of the regular season on November 13.

Leadership and the DIAA Football Committee would look at those requests, and then present their recommendation for the 2023 structure at the December Board of Directors meeting.

At this point, the playoffs would move to eight teams in each of the three classifications, eliminating the extra week 2A needs to complete their current 12-team tournament.

They did not discuss whether the week savings could be used to facilitate an extra week to help with scheduling 10 games over 11 weeks instead of 10, or move the schedule up a week to air in the crossover into winter sports.

The preliminary mock schedule would have all 7 districts play district games the final three weeks of the regular season.

All would have open weeks at least the opening two weeks of the season, with an open week near the middle of the season matching with the other classes allowing for crossover district or class games, if schools desire.

This would be important for teams like the Independent Conference members of Friends, Tower Hill, Tatnall, and Saint Andrew's, who have expressed an interest in continuing their 4-team competition, despite Friends and Tower Hill being in 2A, and Tatnall and Saint Andrew's in 1A.

A challenge for schedule makers will be if they want to play those non-district games in that final last three-week window, as their initially assigned opponents would now need to find new opposition, with no in-state options unless games were shuffled around the calendars.

The DIAA has cited a desire to change having 48% of their games decided by 25 or more points over the past decade as a reason for the shuffling of teams.

Last year, only one of the seven new districts, 2A-3, saw enough parity so every team won at least one game.

What will be district games in 2023? Stay tuned.

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Delaware High School Football


Saturday, Oct. 1

Appoquinimink 21, St. Georges Tech 7

Charter School of Wilmington 28, St. Andrew's 7

Dover 34, Caesar Rodney 0

Howard School of Technology 20, Mt. Pleasant 7

Newark 26, Delcastle Tech 22

St. Elizabeth 50, Glasgow 12

St. Mark's 54, Conrad 14

Tower Hill 35, Brandywine 0

Wilmington Friends 34, Archmere Academy 9


Friday, Sept. 30

Caravel Academy 44, Concord 6

Delaware Military Academy 27, Thomas McKean 14

Delmar 41, Woodbridge 14

First State Military 25, Christiana 6

Indian River 21, Seaford 20

Laurel 50, Polytech 6

Massillon, Ohio 42, Middletown 24

Red Lion Christian Academy 39, Milford 0

Salesianum 21, Hodgson Vo-Tech 0

Smyrna 22, Sussex Central 0

Sussex Technical 33, Lake Forest 30