The major complaint about the MHSAA Football Playoffs is not that too few teams qualify or too many, or that a five-week playoff is too long or should become six weeks, or that some worthy teams miss out while some less worthy teams get in.
No; most people find a five-week, 11-player tournament after a nine-game regular season is the best that our late start to fall classes and our early start to winter weather will allow us in Michigan. Many people appreciate being able to complete our 14-week season in the warmth of Ford Field on the Friday and Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. Most people think that nearly 45 percent of 11-player schools is a sufficient tournament field. Many people like the excitement that the six-win threshold creates for teams that had been eliminated earlier from league championships.
The most serious and legitimate complaint about the season-ending playoffs is the stress it has placed on conferences and the struggles many schools have in building nine-game regular-season schedules. Some critics want to mess with the Football Playoffs because of the mess they believe it makes for regular-season schedulers.
Having the MHSAA provide every school a nine-game regular season schedule of the most nearby teams of the most nearly equal enrollments would shift scheduling headaches from the local level to the MHSAA. I’m not suggesting that this solution to local problems doesn’t create new, large headaches for the MHSAA. But in fact, that is the tradition of school sports: when an issue is large enough in scope and common enough among member schools, the state high school association is asked to be the problem-solver.
That’s how we got transfer rules, defined sports seasons and competitive cheer tournaments, for example. Just about every policy and procedure and program of the MHSAA arises from a common local problem looking for a statewide solution.
The 2014 Update Meeting Opinion Poll indicates that 70 percent of responding administrators do not favor the solution of the MHSAA making all schools’ regular-season varsity football schedules. Maybe the question should be narrowed to having the MHSAA complete member schools’ non-conference scheduling.
Meanwhile, we will keep watching as high school associations in other states move to statewide scheduling. For if scheduling is the problem, then scheduling itself needs to be the focus of the solution.