FHSAA CONSIDERING FOOTBALL PLAYOFF CHANGES
The Florida High School Athletic Association has kicked off the conversation to bring the biggest changes ever to the high school football playoffs. The framework of the proposal — still in its early stages — calls for districts to be eliminated and regions to take their place with a new points system determining playoff teams. The brackets could be revealed on a televised selection show, bringing a March Madness-like feel to November playoff football. The soonest that changes could take place would be the 2017 season. The goals are obvious. ? Create a more compelling regular season, where every week matters, and not just two or three games. ? Eliminate the smallish districts that can lead to a glut of sub-.500 teams in the postseason. There are currently 12 districts in the state that include three teams, and one that has just two. In 5A last year, a 1-9 Gainesville Eastside qualified for the postseason. ? Make Week 11 of the season vital. How it stands now, that week on the schedule is essentially a throwaway for teams headed to the state playoffs. FHSAA director of athletics and football administrator Frank Beasley detailed the changes in a working outline that will no doubt go through revisions before next month’s board of directors meeting. Kyle Niblett, who handles public relations for the FHSAA, said that it was sending out fact-gathering materials to all coaches in the state this week to get their input on the changes. That data will be included in Beasley’s presentation to the board on June 13-14. Should there be positive feedback, the proposal would be sent to the athletic director advisory board later this year for more discussion. “We’re trying to be as transparent as possible about it, a complete open, clear door to what’s going on,” Niblett said. In the initial proposal from Beasley, the districts that have determined how teams qualify for the playoffs would disappear, replaced by four regions. Using the area-heavy Class 5A as an example, a potential Region 1 could include those 15 local schools and the nine others that stretch down I-10 and into the Panhandle for a 24-team cluster. The top eight teams from there would be seeded by their 11-week points average and compete for a spot in the state semifinals. Teams would earn points on a weekly basis. At stake would be a point total ranging anywhere from 20 (a loss to an opponent with a 3-6 record or worse) to 50 (a win for beating a team at 8-2 or better). Playing up in classification would yield bonus points, capped at four. A 4A team like Bolles would earn four points for facing a team like 8A Mandarin. Teams would have to play a minimum of eight games to be eligible for the playoffs. While many coaches in the area still hadn’t read through the proposal in depth, the overwhelming consensus is that the system could stand for change. Raines coach Deran Wiley and Lee’s O.J. Small said that they were both in favor of changing the structure of the playoffs. Sandalwood coach Adam Geis, whose had teams go 8-2 in 2011 and 7-3 in 2012, yet missed the postseason both times, says a change would benefit programs in top-heavy districts. “We’ve been on the bad end of that, two losses [in 2011] against really good football teams and we miss out,” Geis said. “I just think 4-6, you really don’t belong in the playoffs. Even 5-5, you really don’t belong in the playoffs over an 8-2 team or a 7-3 team.” A situation like Sandalwood’s, which happened to Oakleaf last year — the Knights went 8-2 and missed out — would be less likely to occur under the proposed changes. According to the FHSAA, Oakleaf would have earned a No. 6 seed under the new criteria had it been in place in 2015. There are holes, too. An 8A school like the Saints or Mandarin wouldn’t stand to pick up any bonus points, even if it played and beat a top-ranked school in a lower classification. And better teams — the Bolles’, Trinity Christians’ and University Christians’ of the area — would have extreme difficulty finding opponents to schedule with the loss of their guaranteed district games. Programs in conferences like the Gateway would largely be protected from having to travel the state looking for competition, but others would struggle badly to find 10 games. “I think the idea is good, I just don’t think it’d be effective for us,” said UC coach David Penland III, who has won a pair of Class 2A championships since 2012. “Anybody that needs wins isn’t going to play us, Trinity, Bolles, Raines. ... Half my schedule’s not going to play us if they don’t have to.” The two biggest changes in the FHSAA’s playoff format over the last 26 years have been the district runner-up advancing to the state playoffs (started in 1993) and the short-lived at-large berth (1999 to 2002). An oddity of the at-large berth was that it only considered games through Week 9.
The Florida Times Union | 5/17/2016
The Florida Times Union | 5/17/2016