Monday, 4 March 2013

BAFA YOO AFF - The Future!

The first weekend of the playoffs is now in the bag and the chaos that was the final week of the regular season is a distant and fading memory. However for some teams there is still that bitter after taste from missing out on the glory of the post season due to tie breakers, bad schedules or the Saltire conference having too many guarenteed teams.

Coupled with these post season injustices there is the (literal) cold hard fact that the weather during the BAFA Uni American Football (BAFAUAF, pronounced BAFA-Yoo-Aff) doesn't allow a full slate of games to be played barring a herculean effort from teams to play midweek (or in the case of Portsmouth, twice in midweek).

So what can be done to counter this? How do we fix the problems with scheduling, having a seven division system and is it time for tiered teams to be introduced? I thought I would give a restructuring of the BAFAUAF a go.

Teams and Tiers

For a long time there have been calls for tiers to be introduced into University American football to stop the minnows getting stuffed by teams with bigger rosters, better athletes, better coaching or a combination of all three. Instead of tiers I propose the creation of a development league using the eight man format of the game, similar to the DV8 league in Ireland.

Smaller teams such as Surrey, RHUL, Worcester, Wolverhampton etc could take part in this competition. The smaller format allows some of their players to become coaches and also allows them to compete on a more level playing field.

Any new associate teams would also be put into this division and any teams struggling for numbers find themselves automatically here cutting the amount of teams in the "big league" down to 64.

Why 64? Read on!

The Structure and Schedule

With the 11 a side league cut down to 64 teams we can now start streamlining divisions to ensure we don't get scheduling conflicts and also to make sure the post season is considerably fairer than the current system. I could have gone over the various teams I think could make up the 64, but that would detract from the goal of this and inevitably lead to arguments over who should be where.

The 64 teams would be divided into eight divisions, with eight teams in each division. Each team would play every team in their division once (that equals seven games total) with the amount of home/away fixtures rotating on an annual basis e.g. Team A has three home games and four away games in Year 1, then has four home games and three away games in Year 2.

No more soft schedules getting you into the playoffs, less games played in the regular season and considerably less trouble working out who goes where in the playoffs!

The eight divisions would then be paired up into four conferences and this is where the fun begins. The first week after the end of the regular season the teams ranked three to eight in each division face off against the team of the same ranking in their sister division. This gives the top two teams in each division a week to prepare for their first game of what will be the "true" post season and give the rest of the teams in the divisions their final beloved eighth game of the season against an opponent of equal caliber (in theory).

The top team in each division will take on the second placed team in the other division in a "divisional" round and the winners of the divisional round then go on to play in the conference championship decider! Confused? I drew up a diagram to help out:

The conference winners go into a four team bracket for the championship playoffs and the losers go into another bracket for the national trophy. These then go national with tiebreakers now able to use the conference final games as a tie breaker.

What does this change?

In the grand scheme of things? It's only slightly small tweaks for some teams, while for others it would be a monumental shift. If this were to come to fruition then teams placed in the DV8 league would moan a lot initially, but hopefully they would realise that sometimes having 22 players in a roster isn't suitable for the full version of the game.

Also with less match ups to play each week most games should be able to get ref coverage (even more so if you could have the DV8 games played midweek!) Most teams should be able to complete seven regular season games and the shortened post season means we can take a little more time to complete schedules (cross divisional match ups that are delayed could be played on the divisional weekend).

It also gives the top teams one less game to play before they are into meaningful post season battles and means that the "Nemesis Problem" with schedules never becomes an issue again as long as the divisions are fairly balanced.

What is certain is that the University game does need a change in it's structure to maintain its competitiveness. With weekends free of bad weather limited and referees stretched to the max to cover all the games, there has to be some kind of shift to ease the pressure. 


  1. After initial selection, how would teams move between the 'dv8' and the 'real' league?

    1. The 4 losers of the Team #8 v Team #8 "toiletbowl" could be relegated, and the 4 "winners" of the Dv8 could be promoted.

    2. By developing to a high enough standard where they can continually compete at the 11 v 11 level.

      There would still be a DV8 play off bracket and final, so perhaps 4 up and 4 down could be an answer.

      Maybe get the 4 11v11 teams at the bottom to play 4 DV8 teams to decide who goes up and who goes down?

  2. A tier system can't ever work at uni level. There can be huge fluctuations in a teams ability year to year due to graduations etc. When players only spend an average of 2-3 seasons on a team then consistency is hard to come by...

    If two (or more) tiers were introduced then it would only be a matter of time until they roughly even out, apart from a hardcore of the best and worst.
    Tiers just isn't the answer, the variety in standard has to be addressed in a different way.
    Perhaps just make it tougher to be a poor team: introduce minimum roster size of 40, only coaches with a proven number of years experience can be approved as headcoaches by the league? Who knows.

    1. You might want to read the article first!

    2. Make it tougher to be a poor team? Surely it's tough enough already. Shouldn't the league be looking for ways to support and improve the more struggling squads in the interests of parity, rather than imposing sanctions on them?

      Imposing a minimum roster size of 40 would mean either A. some half decent teams are forced to drop out or B. teams would simply lie/have rosters full of people with no intention of playing.

    3. This isn't a tiered system. This is removing teams that hae consistently struggled for a number of years from a league they are clearly not capable of competing in.

      Newly associated teams should also be part of this group as it allows them to develop more slowly and also showcase any athletes they have on their team.

    4. I have read the article, and I'm fully aware of what it's suggesting. I was simply agreeing that a tiered system like the BAFANL one would not work (which seems to get suggested alot).

      It's a tough situation, and alot of people are quick to point out problems in the current system, which is flawed, without thinking that it may be the best option.

    5. so you want to eliminate the worst teams in the league to make it 'fairer'. how is that fair on the students that have gone to a uni that has been exiled to the 8v8 league? they are no longer able to complete at the same level as possibly a worse player on a better team. then you have the sensitive issue of funding. you cant turn round to me and say that teams forced down into the development league are going to continue to get the same funding as before, possible forcing them to cease as a program. Not saying a 8v8 or development league is not a good idea, but its should be optional and available to all teams to help all students, not as a way of demeaning a losing program.

    6. We aren't "eliminating" anyone, we're giving the smaller teams an opportunity to develop into bigger teams in a controlled environment. No one said anything about exile either.

      They aren't competing at the same level as a majority of teams and are hindered by squad size, lack of coaching staff and general lack of funding for 11v11 game.

      Consider this. At 8v8 level you need less sets of kit to fully kit a team out. With 8v8 you need less players, so you can now say "If you don't show up to practice, you don't play" without it being a completely empty threat (a player on a 22 man team knows he is going to play at some point or another).

      You can't say that teams that drop down a division won't be offered the same funding, that's just a presumption you've made.

      The problem with making it optional is that the teams that really need it probably wouldn't take the option.

  3. Defeats the objective of why the seventh Scottish tier has so few numbers in their division. No real effort has been made to look into the timeframes for teams to travel and play games in real time. Poor Effort.

    1. A lot of effort has been done actually, but it's easy to throw stones at an article without actual knowledge of how it was put together.

      Stirling to the Newcastle Area is on average about 3 hours travel. With the home/away cycle it could be scheduled so that a team like Stirling would have a max of 2 games a season where they have to travel that kind of distance.

      The alternative is to leave the Scottish teams in their own little division and have the same unjust system we currently have.

    2. It's your job as the writer to show the amount of leg work and the thought processes that went behind writing the article IN the article.
      I'll be honest, this entire thought process is flawed. Saying certain teams deserve to be a Div 1 team over another team based on the coaches experience, the amount of players on a roster and their prior success smacks of a typical British mentality of creating a glass ceiling. This isn't the NCAA, this is a league of a developmental, minority sport that is growing. Creating these criteria to make certain teams the priority will only drive a wedge between those already established teams and those developing or looking at joining.
      I'd say stick to the writing but that isn't really what you do. Critiquing with broad based opinions isn't writing. It's just shooting from the hip from behind a keyboard.

    3. "Critiquing with broad based opinions isn't writing. It's just shooting from the hip from behind a keyboard."

      Says the person critiquing with broad based opinions behind an anonymous user name...

      You are right, there are some teams that are developing, there are others that have developed beyond a level where it is fair to match them up and to keep them in the same leagues as each other is detrimental to both (this is an opinion having been on both sides of a dominating win).

      It is interesting that often "travel" is the number one reason behind limiting tiers (and your initial argument). BUCS football for instance has Loughborough, Nottingham, Sheffield, Hallam, Stirling, Northumbria and Manchester in one division. Loughborough to Stirling is a trip of nearly 5 hours!

      Maybe it's time to stop making lame duck excuses like "we have to travel really far" and actually start making our sport competitive on several levels rather than none.

      And yes, it costs money to travel, which is why I cut a game off the end, that's an extra £200-£400 saved a year that can go on further travel.

  4. The old fluctuation argument, countered by Herts, Brum, Lugbug, Worcester, etc.

    1. Surrey, RHUL, ARU (both teams), Teeside...

  5. The current system unfairly penalises a division with two heavyweight sides in it. Witness the Aces being ceded 11th and paying the price for a rough away trip at Bath (though all credit to the Bees) whilst the Lions have had an extra fixture (and maybe lost their QB in the process) whilst still facing the longest away trip in the playoffs all because the two sides knocked points off each other in the regular season.

    That said, I'm not sure what the answer is. I take the point that graduations tend to make stability hard to come by but a good (funded) programme stays the same regardless of the personal so maybe some elite two (or three) leagues across the whole of the UK with a playoff system from it could work as long as there was a gangway (in both directions) for growing teams and once that have had their day.

    1. I would venture to say BNU to Glasgow is probably further than Birmingham to Stirling. Just checked google maps, aaaaaaand i'm right.

  6. OK second longest then but still a long hike for a team reckoned by the experts (??) on this board to be ranked 1 or 2 in the UK with Herts.

    1. You've identified the issues for sure.

      The problem is how do we fix them? The answer is that there are several solutions and not everyone is going to be happy with just one idea, it never happens.

      This is compounded more by the "pride" people have in their 0-8 teams that really need tuning down. Going 8v8 isn't punishment, it's an opportunity to develop and become better without getting obliterated.

  7. It is good that there are Ideas in the pipeline to improve the structure of the league. The system we have now as has been shown the last couple of years (at least) is a shambles, with teams who not only do not deserve post season football but are unable to match up to it. The talk about the distance of the trip to Scotland is not really that valid when you look at some of the travels Bangor had to make this season, and the trips teams have to make when they make post season play offs. In my opinion it is the geographical alignment of the teams that needs a little bit more attention when it comes to the Conference line ups for instance the Sheffield teams in the western conference and Birmingham being in the same conference as say Lincoln. Hopefully this will be addressed with any restructuring. Also the Idea of every one playing every one in their conference will prevent the "Northants play off situation" last year happening again. Post season seedings could then be fairer awarding the top 8 seeds given to Conference champions and then the rest of the seedings given to teams on their records not their placings in their conference, this would prevent this years "Glasgow situation" arising again.

    sorry guys I ment the "Edinburgh Predators situation" not the "Glasgow situation"
    (will check my facts a little better next time)


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