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Will realignment result in major shakeup in ’12?

October 5, 2011

Seems the Interscholastic League is revising its realignment policies, which could be interpreted as a sign that the state’s governing body for high school athletics is not turning a deaf ear when its constituents speak up.
Sticking primarily with how these tweaks impact the football side, the idea of altering everything from how often realignment takes place to the specific formula that mathematically helps place teams in one division as opposed to another is something that will surely help to keep the overall product fresh.
Starting with the 2012-13 academic year, realignment will be subject to review once every two years. Typically this was a process that took place every four years with the idea of revisiting whether teams could potentially move up or down after the completion of two years.
Herein lies the underlying reason for tweaking the system. With numerous teams expressing the desire to move down a division, the league opted to scrap the four-year realignment timetable – the 2011 campaign marks the second year of the current arrangement based on what was decreed in March 2010 – and put in new regulations that should a). help in filling out the open slots that figure to surface in Divisions I-III, and b). aid programs in the midst of a downward cycle to better recover by placing them in a division where they have a shot to be competitive.
“If you go four years, you can decimate a program,” points out a local high school football coach.
Also adjusted is the percentage of the school’s male enrollment along with a team’s winning percentage over a finite number of years, two pieces of information when combined help rank the teams.
Now a team’s win-loss mark (of league games) makes up 70 percent of the equation with the male enrollment comprising 30 percent. Prior to this adjustment period, a formula based on 60 percent enrollment, coupled with a 40 percent winning percentage over the previous realignment period, was used to list all 43 participants
“That (60:40 ratio) was so skewered that it wasn’t working out,” notes the same football coach.
More specifically, such a staggering discrepancy impacted – most often negatively – the schools with heavy male populations. No matter how they fared on the actual field, the chances of getting placed in Division I always seemed likely.
For upper-tier programs such as Bishop Hendricken, La Salle and East Providence, it doesn’t matter what formula is used. This is about the likes of Woonsocket, Tolman, Cumberland, Coventry and Central and the impact 60:40 had on them. The male enrollment is high enough at each of the aforementioned schools that they are borderline Division I programs even before taking winning percentage into account.
If you were to ask the coaches at each of these schools of their desired preference, they would overwhelmingly reply that they would struggle in Div. I to the point that the impact could linger long after dropping down, i.e. low turnout. That’s why those schools should be thankful that Portsmouth, Barrington, Cranston West, North Kingstown, Rogers and St. Raphael opted to remain in the state’s top division for many years.
It’s their willingness that has allowed the Tolmans and Woonsockets of the world to compete in a league (Division II) where the competitive nature is fair – which should be the creed of all high school athletics, regardless the sport.
***
How the win percentage is calculated isn’t an open-and-shut case. Yes, a team’s league record from a certain amount of years is taken into account – in football’s case, the sample size is the past eight years starting with the 2004 season and concluding with this present one – but it’s not as simple as adding up all the wins and losses and letting the chips fall where they may.
Wins in the four divisions are weighed differently. In Division I, wins are worth a full point followed by Division II (0.6). Division III (0.4) and Division IV (0.2). Such a scale prevents teams such as Exeter/West Greenwich, a program that has been a force in Division IV the past several seasons, from being on equal footing with La Salle or Hendricken.
It should be noted that teams in Division I, III and IV play eight league games. Meanwhile Division II schools play seven league games.
As far as enrollment goes, school administrators were recently emailed by the RIIL to submit figures that will be taken into account for this coming realignment. Those number should be released at some point this month.
***
By no means are rankings the league sends out to the schools the final say on the matter. Teams that are placed in Division I can request to drop down – providing there is a corresponding move to fill the open spot.
In some corners the belief is that very little up-and-down movement will transpire once everything is tabulated. Those teams that have struggled figure to adhere to what the computer says providing they fit the qualifications of a division that is different from the previous one they were housed in.
In turn that could leave those teams that have thrived in a certain division little choice but to move up. We’ll know much more come next March once the arrangements become crystallized.

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