03

Seeding Discontent

We have heard for years that the Michigan High School Athletic Association Football Playoffs have created scheduling problems for schools and have caused the demise of leagues, no matter how many times the playoffs expanded – from 16 schools in 1975 to 256 schools today (plus 16 more in the 8-player tournament). Many other states with a variety of other football playoff formats report similar stresses on their member schools.

The inability of weaker teams to compete within a league and the difficulty that stronger teams face to find willing opponents to complete a nine-game regular season schedule are not uncommon for varsity football in Michigan, but are problems rarely experienced in basketball.

That could change if seeding based on wins and strength of schedule comes to MHSAA Basketball Tournaments.

With an easier road to District and Regional titles gifted to higher seeded teams, coaches will want a regular season schedule that is difficult but not too difficult. They will seek a league that is tough, but not too tough. This is the recipe for scheduling headaches. Strong schools will have difficulty finding a full schedule of games, while weaker or simply smaller schools will have difficulty finding a league.

Fearing blemishes on the regular season win/loss records, coaches will delay playing substitutes and avoid sitting out or suspending good players who are bad actors. Every eligibility snafu leading to forfeit will carry tournament seeding consequences. The temptation to hide ineligibilities and the inclination to fight forfeits, not infrequent in football, will come to basketball.

Developing a seeding plan is not at all difficult, but living with one could be.

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About the Author

Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts has been at the helm of the MHSAA as its Executive Director since 1986, implementing programs and overseeing tournament administration and regulations for the Association which boasts 1,500 member schools, 10,000 registered officials and 13,000 head coaches.

During the last 44 years, Roberts has spoken to educator and athletic groups, business leaders and civic groups in almost every state and five Canadian provinces. He is one of the nation's most articulate advocates for educational athletics.

Roberts has served on the board of directors of the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO), is in his second term on the board of the National Federation of State High School Associations, and is the first chairman of the NFHS Network board of directors. He has been board president for the Refugee Development Center for seven years, and is a past-chair of the board of directors of the Michigan Society of Association Executives. He is vice chair and secretary of the board of trustees for the Capital Region Community Foundation.

He is a 1970 graduate of Dartmouth College, where he played defensive safety for the Ivy League's winningest football team during that span, and he sang in Dartmouth's close harmony vocal group.

His wife, Peggy, has retired from a 30-year career in social services, and is serving as president of the board of the Fenner Nature Conservancy in Lansing.