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Roger Brown's The State of Sports: Another division not best alternative

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 22. 2017 10:33PM

The NHIAA football committee recently recommended the addition of a fourth division. This was done largely to help level the field for the smaller Division III schools that have struggled to remain competitive.

Although there would be some small changes to Division I and Division II, the proposal essentially breaks the current Division III into two smaller divisions. If the proposal receives the final stamp of approval, NHIAA football would likely look like this next season:

Division I (900+): Pinkerton Academy, Nashua South, Nashua North, Exeter, Concord, Manchester Central, Bedford, Londonderry, Manchester Memorial, Keene, Spaulding, Dover, Merrimack, Timberlane, Salem, Goffstown, Portsmouth, Winnacunnet, Windham and Bishop Guertin.

Division II (641-899): Alvirne, Gilford/Belmont, Milford, Merrimack Valley, Manchester West, Hollis/Brookline, Pembroke, Souhegan, Kingswood, Kennett, ConVal, Hanover, Plymouth, John Stark, Bow, Pelham, Sanborn and St. Thomas.

Division III (451-640): Hillsboro-Deering/Hopkinton, Lebanon, Stevens, Epping-Newmarket, Laconia, Kearsarge, Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough, Monadnock, Campbell, Somersworth, Trinity and Newport.

Division IV (1-450): Fall Mountain, Winnisquam, Farmington/Nute, Raymond, Newfound, Mascoma, Bishop Brady and Franklin.

Two things might make this setup work: Division I remains a 20-team league, and the fact that Newport and Somersworth, two healthy programs currently in Division III, agreed to move up to Division III in the four-division proposal, and not remain in Division IV where their enrollment placed them.

Petitions (schools can petition up or down) and placements also affected Alvirne (from Division I to Division II), Bishop Guertin (from Division II to Division I), Trinity (from Division IV to Division III), Fall Mountain (from Division III to Division IV) and St. Thomas (from Division IV to Division II).

As you can see, the new format wouldn’t do anything to help Memorial or Spaulding, programs that are 1-47 in their last 48 Division I contests. It also wouldn’t do much, if anything, to provide relief for Pembroke, Kingswood, West and Gilford-Belmont, programs that are having a hard time winning in the current Division II and moving forward would play only the larger/stronger programs in that division.

The four-division format may also put some rivalry games in jeopardy, since Hanover and Lebanon would be in different divisions, as would Plymouth and Laconia, and Epping/Newmarket and Raymond.

There would be nothing close to a balanced schedule in Division III, which would have 12 teams. The further we stray from balanced schedules the more likely it is that deserving teams will be left out of the playoffs.

Increased cost and the time factor also makes it unlikely that all four championship games would be played at the University of New Hampshire. Having the championship games on the same day in the same location is one of the best ways to promote high school football in the state.

The feeling here is that it would have been better to keep the three-division structure, and strive for competitive balance by moving teams within the three divisions (maybe Pembroke to Division III, Monadnock to Division II, etc.). The committee is in the best position to decide who goes where. Getting better, and not seeking lesser competition, should be the life lesson that’s taught.

Let’s also remember this: The struggling Division III programs that will now face each other in Division IV were already in the same division, albeit a larger one.

If this proposal gains approval, it will be an interesting move, and time will tell us if it was the right one.

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UNH will put in bids to host games in the NCAA men’s and women’s Division I soccer tournaments. Both UNH teams enter the week at the top of the America East standings.

The UNH men, ranked 18th nationally, are 11-1-3 with two regular-season games remaining, and the UNH women finished the regular season with a 11-5-1 record.

The men’s tournament features 48 teams — 24 conference champions and 24 at-large bids — and the first four rounds will be held at campus sites. The tournament field will be announced Nov. 13.

The 64-team women’s tournament field — 31 automatic bids and 33 at-large teams — will be announced on Nov. 6. The first four rounds of that tournament will also be held at campus sites.

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American Legion baseball has adopted several new rules that will be in place for the 2018 season. Perhaps the most significant change is one that will shorten all state and national tournament games from nine to seven innings. Each state will still have the option to play nine-inning games during the regular season.

Other changes involve pitch count (now 105 pitches per day, down from 120), courtesy runners for pitchers and catchers, and relaxed guidelines regarding 19-year-olds, who no longer have to have played Legion baseball at a younger age to participate.

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Someone will bring Vin Scully out of retirement to call at least one World Series game, right? #hesthebest.