Mount Anthony football is officially making the jump back to Division I next fall as a part of a larger realignment throughout the state.
Vermont Principals’ Association Associate Executive Director Lauren Thomas confirmed the realignment Friday afternoon, explaining the VPA has decided to assign football divisions based on the total number of enrolled males per school. Most sports throughout the state follow this same format, but football has used a different system in the past.
The switch to male population means both MAU and Brattleboro will compete in Division I next fall.
Patriots coach Chad Gordon described the move a natural progression, as the program has been on the rise for several years now. The Patriots are coming off their first state championship in 28 years, defeating Bellows Falls 24-17 in a double overtime thriller in November to secure the title.
“It’s gonna be a challenge,” Gordon said. “It’s about week-to-week, and having the depth. I think the top teams in D-II can always compete in D-I, but the rigorous week in and week out schedule of D-I is the challenge.”
Division I will now feature 11 teams: Champlain Valley, Essex, Burlington/South Burlington, BFA St. Albans, St. Johnsbury, Mount Anthony, Brattleboro, Rutland, Burr and Burton, Middlebury and Hartford.
MAU athletic director Paul Reif advocated for the Patriots to remain in Division II, calling it “the best fit for us.”
The MAU AD acknowledged the move up a division will be difficult.
“We’re making the best of it, we’re not shying away from the challenge,” he said. “I think we’ll still be in a good position to make the playoffs.”
Reif disagrees with using the total number of male students to determine division placement. “It doesn’t represent the participation we get out of our enrollment at this time,” he said.
Both Middlebury and Hartford petitioned to play up to Division I and were granted access, taking the spots of two schools with a larger male population: Mount Mansfield and North Country, who will play in Division II.
Bellows Falls and Fair Haven were Division III schools based on male population, but both schools were accepted into Division II after petitioning.
Missisquoi will play in Division III, the lone change to that division.
Additionally, five separate “leagues” have been created by the VPA. Teams will play each of their league mates once.
MAU’s league consists of the Patriots along with: Middlebury, Rutland, BBA, Hartford and Brattleboro.
Gordon said he is in favor of the leagues, saying it will limit the amount of traveling teams will have to do throughout the state.