Central Connecticut State University’s Arute Field will be the new host of the CIAC state championships starting this December. (Credit: CCSU Athletics)
The CIAC Football Committee had an awfully productive meeting Wednesday.
Bye, Bye, Rentschler Field
First came the decision to move the state championships to Central Connecticut State University’s Arute Field starting with the 2013 season. Then came the news that changes to the state playoffs could be brewing in time for installation by the 2015 season.
The CIAC officially announced the switch of the state finals from Rentschler Field to Central in a release Thursday. The move was expected after the CIAC lost tens of thousands of dollars by hosting the 2012 finals at Rentschler, as the Norwich Bulletin reported.
Rentschler lent a big-time feel to the games but also felt cavernous at last year’s state championship weekend, although players and coaches appeared to thoroughly enjoy the experience during the three-year stay. The Class LL and Class L games drew solid crowds, but neither broke 5,000 in attendance. Arute Field’s capacity is between 5,500 and 5,800, so based on recent attendance figures the smaller venue should not be a problem.
“CCSU is the perfect size to accommodate our spectators and creates an outstanding championship atmosphere,” CIAC Assistant Executive Director Paul Hoey said in a release. “Their facility is one of the best in the state, and having a turf field available will allow for predictability with scheduling and field conditions.”
Arute Field just underwent a renovation to expand its seating with bleachers on the visiting side of the field. The facility also has a second turf field for extended team warmups to keep games on schedule. The CIAC hopes the smaller venue enhances the feel of the crowd.
“The Committee simply believes holding the championship games at Arute Field provides the best experience and atmosphere for our student-athletes and fans and makes the most sense for our organization at this time,” Hoey said in the release. “Our relationship with Rentschler has been tremendous, and the decision to move to a new venue is not a reflection of any dissatisfaction with the people there or that experience.”
Central was among the neutral sites that hosted state championship games under the previous postseason system. It’s definitely a nice facility and it’s a kinder trip for most of the teams historically involved in state title games, including those from the NVL. Hopefully it will look like this at some point this December.
Open Division a Possibility in Future Playoffs
Also in the wake of Wednesday’s meeting came the renewed notion that there may be room for change in the current four-class postseason system. The Day’s Ned Griffen caught up with New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli and Hand coach Steve Filippone and both coaches say the possibility exists for their to be advancement toward either a co-op/technical school division or an open division, or both.
I first brought up the possibility at the CIAC media luncheon in December. Coaches on the committee, as well as Hoey, said they were open to exploring ways to make the tournament better, including allowing teams to move up in class based on tournament success or the creation of an open division. For the first time, we’ve learned some details on how that division could work.
The open division would be a fifth division, in addition to the existing four classes. Teams wouldn’t be able to opt in or out of the division; rather, they would be selected at the conclusion of the regular season. Filippone suggested a BCS-like formula that combined polls and computer rankings to choose the field, which then could be seeded by a committee of coaches. It’s a long ways off from happening, but it seems to have validity.
The co-op/tech school division seems like the more likely of the two to happen sooner, according to the coaches’ feelings. Co-op and tech programs have three total victories in 35-plus years of the CIAC football playoffs, according to Ned’s research.
His story’s worth a read. The potential open division leaves open the question of whether having a definitive top-notch bracket would water down the other four classes in terms of both quality and importance of each championship. No changes can be made in any of the structure until the 2014 season is all finished.