The YAIAA's football alignment could use some fine-tuning. And barring an addition to the league (hello, Northern York), the best option is a promotion/relegation system. The top-ranked teams in Divisions II and III would be promoted to a higher division, and the lowest-ranked teams in Divisions I and II would be relegated to the next lowest division.
So, let's do it, let's mix it up. Let's reward the teams that dominate Divisions II and III every year and offer some mercy to the programs that struggle to keep up. The league needs more competitive balance, and this is the best chance to have that.
Right now, Divisions II and III are top-heavy. How much longer should we enter a season knowing Bermudian Springs and West York will dominate their divisions while a few other programs continue to push out 2-8, 1-9 and 0-10 seasons?
The teams at the top benefit from a promotion/relegation system because when it comes to district power rankings, it doesn't do the Bermudians and West Yorks of the league any good to beating up on teams at the bottom. To increase their rating and move into the upper-tier of their district classes, they need to face tougher opponents.
As the divisions are aligned now, a team like Bermudian is hurt by its strength of schedule in YAIAA Division III. The Eagles went undefeated in 2014, but still finished second in Class AA because Berks Catholic plays in a tougher division. The result was Bermudian having to play Wyomissing in the semifinals instead of playing Newport.
Meanwhile, the teams at the bottom would benefit from this system, too. Wouldn't Hanover and Susquehannock rather play each other in a competitive game than have to face powerhouses Bermudian and West York? Those two teams would gain a better chance to produce winning seasons.
Zach Miller and I reorganized the divisions the way they would look with the system, and they were much more competitive. They also allowed some backyard rivals an opportunity to play in the same division.
Based on last year's results, West York and Gettysburg would switch with New Oxford and Spring Grove in Divisions I and II. So the Bulldogs would play rivals Dallastown, Red Lion and Central (whom they already play evenly with) in divisional matchups. Gettysburg would get a chance to play South Western, with whom they've had a competitive series. And we eliminate the annually hollow matchups of New Oxford-Dallastown and Gettysburg-Kennard-Dale (which ended in a 85-12 final score last year). Top to bottom, the division would be stacked.
Division II would welcome the Rockets and Colonials, as well as Bermudian Springs and York Catholic from Division III. Again, that would give the division seven teams that could realistically win the division in any given year as opposed to one. (West York has won at least a share of the title seven of the last eight years.) Division III would end up being a collection of small schools and relegated teams, but it would make the talent level much more even than it is now. Susquehannock, Hanover, York County Tech and Kennard-Dale – who combined for five wins last seasons – would all of a sudden be rejuvenated programs. Wouldn't that be more fun to see?
Sure, some fine-tuning would be needed. And while we would gain rivalries, we could potentially lose some, too.
But competitive balance is what's most important. Fans want to see close games, not blowouts, and good teams need stronger schedules. So, let's mix it up. Time to promote and relegate.