BBA football expected to move into Division I
MANCHESTER — After winning a pair of Division II championships in the past four years and going 38-4 since 2015, the Burr and Burton football team is expected to move up to Division I for the first time for the 2019 season.
BBA athletic director Dave Miceli and Vermont Interscholastic Football League scheduler and treasurer Sean Farrell each confirmed the move when contacted on Wednesday.
"[Burr and Burton has] shown they can hold their own," said Farrell, who is also the athletic director at Middlebury Union High School. "We've played them the past couple of seasons and we split with them, one and one."
Using a formula that includes the number of returning football players, the number of boys in the school and the 4-year win-loss record, Burr and Burton's average is sixth out of 30 schools in Vermont that play football.
BBA has 29 returners, 363 boys in the school and a winning percentage of .905 since the beginning of 2015.
Burr and Burton was 10-1 in 2018, with only one game — a 21-13 loss to Middlebury — where the offense scored less than 40 points. In the championship against Fair Haven, BBA took a 63-0 lead before winning 63-14.
BBA football coach Jason Thomas said if that's where the VIFL places his team, he's not worried about competing in Division I.
"In some ways, we've outgrown Division II," said Thomas, who is on the alignment committee.
Thomas said he'd like to see four divisions with the two biggest having eight teams and the two smaller ones having seven teams.
"Football in Vermont is on the decline and something like that could protect smaller schools," Thomas said.
Thomas also said he feels the system the VIFL uses to place schools in their respective divisions is outdated.
"The [higher numbers of the formula] don't exist anymore," Thomas said. "Schools don't have 50 or 60 kids returning to their programs, not even Rutland or Middlebury. Twenty-nine kids [coming back] is not that many."
Farrell admits the VIFL's alignment system isn't perfect and in response, they changed the timing of alignments from every two years to every year.
"It's an imperfect system, but this is what we have," Farrell said. "But moving to the one-year alignment [schedule] gives us the flexibility to move teams up or down."
Thomas said he feels there's two sides to the every-year alignment.
"It's imperfect, and it can be a nightmare from a scheduling perspective, getting your rivalry games are tough," Thomas said. "But a two-year cycle in the wrong division can set your program back years."
Farrell said the official alignment would be figured out sometime after the New Year, so teams can have their fall schedules in place as quickly as possible.
Miceli said that the school would not appeal the decision to move into Division I.
"It's a decision we made together between the football program and the administration," Miceli said. "We didn't even really think about appealing. We saw what the formula says and if that's where we [end up], it's a new challenge and it's exciting to aspire to be the best that we can."
At the same time, Thomas said he's worried with a bit of a dip in his football player numbers.
"We started the season with 32 guys and by the end, we were up around 35, 36," Thomas said. "But now we'll have 29 going into a Division I schedule. I think we're talented enough to compete week-to-week, but over a full season, I don't know."
When the football program was restarted in 2008, BBA was placed in Division III, but they were moved up to Division II the next season, 2009, after the team went undefeated in the regular season and 8-1 overall.
"We got our butts kicked for the first couple years in Division II, but it forced us to play up to our competition," Thomas said. "I'm worried about that happening, basing the future on our past success."
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.