After an absence of decades, eight-player football has been reintroduced to Michigan high schools during recent years. When enough schools sponsored the program, the MHSAA responded with a four-week playoff in 2011. The number of schools sponsoring the sport grew in 2012, and more growth is expected for the 2013 season.
Like almost everything that occurs in life, what has benefited some schools is not seen by others to be in their own best interests.
Advocates of the eight-player game include those schools whose declining enrollments couldn’t support the eleven-player game. Football has returned to some communities and has been saved from the brink of elimination in others.
However, as two and soon three dozen Class D schools opt for the eight-player game, the remaining Class D schools that sponsor football find themselves in disrupted leagues and forced to travel further to complete eleven-player football schedules; and they must compete against larger teams in Division 8 of the eleven-player MHSAA Football Playoffs.
In fact, the growth of the eight-player game among our smallest schools has resulted in more Class D schools qualifying for the MHSAA Football Playoffs than ever before. In 2012, an all-time high 44.0 percent of Class D schools that sponsor football qualified for either the single division eight-player tournament or Division 8 of the eleven-player tournament. This compares to 42.2 percent of Class C schools, 44.9 percent of Class B schools and 41.6 percent of Class A schools that sponsor football and qualified for the 2012 playoffs.
Some see the eight-player game as the savior of the football experience in Class D schools. Others see it differently.