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New RIIL realignment guidelines to take effect in 2014-15

August 20, 2013

Ponaganset Athletic Director Tom Marcello presented a new realignment proposal on behalf of the RIIAAA to the RI Principals' Committee on Athletics Monday. PHOTO BY ERNEST A. BROWN

PROVIDENCE — Perhaps there’s no way getting around it. Coming up with a realignment proposal that soothes the Rhode Island Interscholastic League’s masses is not as simple or straightforward as snapping one’s fingers.

That said, a few ruffled feathers has not impeded the realignment committee branch of the Rhode Island Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (RIIAAA) from coming up with a solution that on the surface could help foster the kind of harmony that has been elusive whenever this particular topic is mentioned.

At Monday’s Principals’ Committee on Athletics meeting, the group received literature along with a detailed explanation regarding proposed changes to realignment that would become enacted beginning with the 2014-15 school year. Representing the RIIAAA was Ponaganset High Athletic Director and head varsity football coach Tom Marcello.

All of the finer points were met with instantaneous approval with the PCOA voting unanimously (11-0).

“No matter how perfect the formula, it will never be perfect,” Marcello stressed, “but no matter how perfect it is, it’s always going to be overshadowed by the sports committees.”

Marcello’s point served as a smooth segue to the first of several proposed changes that the RIIAAA deemed important to address. Now more so than ever, the responsibility of lining up teams in divisions that will provide them with the most realistic chance of being competitive will lie in the hands of each individual sports committee.

“The sports committees really are the lynchpin for realignment,” said Marcello.

How the sports committees configure the teams in each division will begin with a one-question survey that will be sent to all schools following each season. Does your school want to compete in Division I in (girls soccer, for example) for the next two-year alignment?

“I think it would be very helpful to the Interscholastic League and to the PCOA to have an independent review of those proposals before they are seen at this level,” Marcello told the group Monday.

In the event that 12 girls’ volleyball teams wish to compete in Division I, Marcello feels that the sports committee would have to explain why a 16-team Division I was deemed the best avenue.

“Just so there’s no speculation or questions,” Marcello went on. “Everyone up front knows why.”

Regardless of sport, Marcello expressed that there are several points that should be addressed every time the individual sports committees gather. They include how playoffs and tiebreakers are determined along with scheduling (i.e. crossovers or playing each team within the division twice) and the number of league and nonleague games.

“It’s important to state those beforehand and get them down on paper before the realignment happens and before the season starts,” said Marcello.

Regarding the “Bottom Three” rule that allows for divisional movement to take place between the last three teams in one division and the top three teams in the division immediately below once the rankings are tallied, the tweak that the RIIAAA came forward with stipulates that “any team in the bottom 40 percent of a division can move down to a lower division as long as a corresponding team requests to move up a division.”

In terms of teams partitioning the PCOA to move up and down during non-realignment years, RIIL Executive Director Tom Mezzanotte says that the only way a team can potentially move to a lower division is contingent upon the school coming before the PCOA “with documentation that it is medically unsafe to participate.”

“It’s only two years, so I would vote against massive changes in midstream,” Mezzanotte said.

The third criteria put forth by the RIIAAA involves a change to the realignment formula. In the past, 70 percent of the equation was reserved for winning percentage over an eight-year span, with the remaining 30 percent accounting for the school’s male or female enrollment.

The new breakdown now includes 70 percent of a team’s weighted win percentage over eight years, 20 percent enrollment and 10 percent reserved for win percentage within the division over the three years leading up realignment discussions.

The lowering of the enrollment percentage figures to benefit the larger enrollment city schools that are sometimes misplaced in a division that competition-wise could prove problematic. It’s also important to remember that wins within each division are weighted differently.

The 70/20/10 formula was tested out on six sports with the RIIAAA putting the findings next to the arrangements based on the “existing” 70/30 formula. Included were football, boys soccer, girls soccer, softball, girls volleyball and field hockey.

Based on the new math, Tolman High football jumped four spots to No. 6 in the rankings after ranking 10th under 70/30. The Tigers’ rise likely stems from the RIIAAA combining the team’s final two seasons in Division II – Tolman won 13 of 14 league games between 2010 and 2011 – and last season’s 3-5 mark in Division I.

Tolman’s fate along with other fall sports’ teams could change next February, which is the submitting deadline for realignment proposals by the individual sports committees. The deadline for winter sports is May 2014 and October 2014 for spring sports.
Below are some other items discussed at Monday’s PCOA meeting at RIIL headquarters, located on Rhode Island College grounds:

-- Co-op guidelines remain in review stage with the hope that changes could eventually be recommended to the PCOA. There is a sub-committee that is forming to study the guidelines during this coming school year, but no date has been scheduled for any recommendations and/or changes.
One possible change could come in the form of granting teams the chance to co-op regardless of enrollment, which in the past has served as a deterrent to larger-sized schools such as Woonsocket High.
“We still have work to do,” Mezzanotte remarked.

-- An interesting development arose when the PCOA was asked to consider a proposal from The Wheeler School to join the RIIL in girls’ lacrosse beginning next spring. Several members asked why some schools are looking for membership in certain sports rather than all sports. It was left that Wheeler officials will be asked to appear before the PCOA at the next meeting, scheduled for Nov. 18.

-- Noting that CPR is now a high school graduation requirement under R.I. law, Mezzanotte talked about each school looking into implementing a plan that includes the delegation of responsibilities in the event that an emergency arises rather having everything fall on the shoulders of one person.
Mezzanotte also noted that the RIIL’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee is pushing for a way to come up with a database of concussion-related injuries.

-- Pointing to the launching of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Network that took place earlier this month, Mezzanotte is looking to organize a conference next month that includes one representative from each Rhode Island high school.
The NFHS Network has already secured coverage of boys and girls sports in 28 states for the 2013-14 year. Rhode Island joins all New England in a project that as Mezzanotte pointed out, “is a way of promoting what you have.”

Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03

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