Over the last month or so, there has been much controversy over the fact that New Brunswick high school football teams are suddenly allowed to jump within the 10-man and 12-man divisions. These two divisions used to be considered AAA (12-man) and AA (10-man), because the same system was being used for all NBIAA sports in New Brunswick, which separated schools by their student population. For the most part, the system worked fairly well, and only once in a while you had some very strong AA teams that could beat AAA teams, but they were forced to stay in their division due to the smaller number of students.
In the past years some exceptions were made, but no one ever really noticed what happened as the leagues stayed pretty consistent except a few programs jumping up and down. This season however, we find ourselves with only 7 teams in the 12-man league and 15 in the 10-man circuit. I have decided to compare both of these and see if they are in fact different at all.
Let’s start with the 10-man division. It was founded in 2001 from the data I can find and has been running strong ever since, with the exception of one season in 2008 where they an experiment lead to every team in the province playing in the 12-man league. After the most lopsided scores ever seen in New Brunswick high school football, they once again decided to adopt the 10-man format in 2009.
What I decided to do is break down all the 10-man school’s populations and then compare them to the 12-man numbers to see if there is in fact a big difference. The initial rule was, from my understanding anyways, that only schools with under 800 students were allowed to play in the 10-man division. Did this rule change?
After breaking down all 15 schools in the 10-man division this year, the average student number I am getting is an average of 765. Keep in mind however, we have 8 schools over the 800 mark that are currently registered in the 10-man divisions and those are Mathieu-Martin, Simonds, Oromocto High, Sussex, Kennebecasis valley, Harbour View, Harrison Trimble and Bernice MacNaughton. Saying that, they boost up the average by quite a bit as 5 of the last 7 schools actually have less than 600 student.
Let’s now take a leap into the 12-man division and see if there is in fact a big difference, keeping in mind the old rule that used to determine in what league the team has to play in. After adding up the population of all 7 schools, including the 452 students that attend the small school of Tantramar, I am getting an average of 1118 students per school. If we look at it from a numbers standpoint, this means that there are roughly 300 more students in the average 12-man school, which truly is a significant difference. Most people will read this and say that bigger schools should be forced to play in the 12-man league. I my eyes, I think the ones over the 1000 student mark should certainly be able to field a team in the 12-man division, but that is much easier said than done.
If we look back to the 2008 season where we saw the NBIAA force all teams to play 12-man, and combine all the teams that are currently playing in the 10-man division minus the first year BMHS Highlanders and HTHS Trojans, they combine for a record of 18 – 33. Also, if you look at the league archives, most of those teams spent a season at the AAA (12 man) level and finished mainly in the basement. The old NBIAA system, if followed by the book, would have teams like Tantramar playing at the 10-man level. That would not be a good set up as the Titans have easily been New Brunswick’s top high school football team for the last decade by a landslide. To summarise, it appears the old system was very flawed to begin with. As such, I believe the NBIAA has more or less allowed teams to choose the division they wish to belong to.
When I first started writing this blog, I figured that calculating the average student populations would help me figure out if Schools like Mathieu-Martin, Bernice MacNaughton and Harrison Trimble truly belong in the 10-man division or not. These are schools with large student populations that have had a hard time succeeding on the field despite having great coaching staffs that want to build a winning program. There are some solid football teams that have come through the 10-man league to win some banners in the 12-man league. A perfect example of this is Bernice MacNaughtan that has gone through this process before and became one of the biggest football powerhouses of the 2000’s. In reality, Bernice MacNaughton getting to the semi finals was mostly due to being in the weaker division of the 12-man circuit. I am not trying to take anything away from that team but that is the reality of it, and why we have seen them make the drop. Another thing is that their head coach Ed Wasson is no stranger to football and has always had a great grip on his program. If he feels this is the right move, it probably is and it is being done for a reason.
To conclude, I truly believe that the NBIAA has got this one right. It really should be a case by case basis to decide what league you belong in. Most of our questions will be answered after the first month of football. Even if we see some very lopsided scores in the 10-man league, I still think the bigger schools like Mathieu-Martin, BMHS and HTHS are doing the right thing for their respective programs, regardless of what gets said around the league. If we see all 3 of these teams score 500 points and allow 30 points on the season then we will have something else to talk about ,but I would be very surprised if that turns out to be the case. I hope you enjoyed my little experiment, but it’s time to let the football do the talking!
Till next time,