Nothing has discouraged me more than football scheduling problems blamed on the Football Playoffs.  What was heralded by coaches and administrators alike as the solution to assuring all deserving teams would qualify for the playoffs is now being cited for exacerbating scheduling problems.

In my opinion – no secret since I’ve said it before – significant expansion of the Football Playoffs is not wise.  It is philosophically misdirected; and most models for doing so are physically harmful, or potentially so, for participants.

The playoffs are not broken.  Ours is an excellent system that works very well for a state as large and diverse as ours, in a November climate as unpredictable and often inhospitable as ours.  Those who assert that because all-comers tournaments work in every other sport it can also work in football, overlook critical differences between football and all other sports – a collision, not merely contact sport – with 625 teams, played outdoors!

It is a non-starter to extend the playoffs a week later.  This is Michigan!  And global warming aside, we are not ready for outdoor football at Semifinal sites on Thanksgiving weekend, nor the following weekend, because Ford Field would not be available to host us in its warmth every other year.  Furthermore, conducting the two-day Finals a week later would conflict with school and jobs, now avoided by utilizing Thanksgiving weekend.

With the mandated post-Labor Day start to classes, it is equally unpalatable to begin the football season a week earlier and play three games before Labor Day in many years.

Nor is it advisable to play two playoff games a week:  it’s not good for kids, and the few states that do so have long talked about ways to change that.

Reducing the regular season to eight games and extending the playoffs from five weeks with 256 teams to six weeks with 512 teams has not been supported in votes of coaches or administrators.  Among many criticisms is that this would more than double terrible mismatches.  Almost one of every four games in the first three rounds of the 2009 playoffs had running clocks in the second half.  How much worse would it be with 2-7 teams playing 7-2, 8-1 and 9-0 teams?

There is no doubt we can double the playoffs or design an all-comers format.  There is much doubt that it is a good idea. 

Posted in: Football


Bob Boroff
# Bob Boroff
Friday, November 27, 2009 8:13 AM
Do not fix what is not broke. The way the football programs are set up works great. If you can not win 6 out 9 of or 5 out 8 games in a season you do not belong in the playoffs
David Mix
# David Mix
Friday, November 27, 2009 9:39 AM
Indeed, further expanding the football playoffs is a terrible idea. Many schools have already experienced lower player turnout, I believe, largely because practice must start early in August to accomadate the already expanded playoffs. Going from a 40-player to a 30-player roster is bad; going from 20 to 15 or fewer players, as many small schools have experienced, is a diasaster, but a significant number of boys simply don't want to give up a whole month of their summer vacation to play football. If the playoffs are expanded even more a few high-powered programs will flourish and the rest will face a weekly drubbing. Why would any kid want that? In other words, more playoffs will only help to further shorten rosters. No playoff system should drive the entire football program.
Bert Smith
# Bert Smith
Friday, November 27, 2009 12:38 PM
Don't be too discouraged - you are spot-on with your observations!!
Bob Henry
# Bob Henry
Friday, November 27, 2009 3:19 PM
Please do not try to fix what is not broke. The 9 game regular season works nicely. If you change that, you will lose some fun non conference rivalries that the kids enjoy playing in. A 6 win minimum is a nice target for teams and the teams that got in with 5 wins have proven themselves to be worthy of that consideration. Absolutely no two games per week scenarios, keep the best interest of the kids at heart.
Russell Smith
# Russell Smith
Friday, November 27, 2009 7:54 PM
Well put!!!!!
Brett Holt
# Brett Holt
Friday, November 27, 2009 10:46 PM
Personally I hate the Michigan playoff system. 5-4 teams do not belong in the playoffs. I propose extending the regular season by 1-2 weeks. Then all conference winners and maybe runner ups make the playoffs, the end. Worried that Class C teams playing in an all Class B conference would not have a chance? They don't really now but simply make sure that all conference contain the same call team. It can be done. It is done in much bigger and diverse states than Michigan. I should know I grew up playing in one. It is called Texas.
# Adam
Friday, November 27, 2009 11:16 PM
This piece makes some good points, but I think it over-emphasizes other, less-good points.

First of all, it is an absolute presumption in Michigan high school sports that like-sized schools can play each other safely. Even if mediocre-to-bad teams make the playoffs in an expanded playoff format, I think over-emphasizing the "health risks" of this is silly: the same schools will likely be playing during the regular season, too, and we aren't seriously fretting over the health risks attendant to that.

Second, an all-comers playoff format could allow you to REDUCE the number of Divisions. In particular, I speak of adding moving the Finals a week later, and then making Week 9 the first week of the playoffs. This would allow you to reduce the number of Divisions to as few as 5. "In the beginning," there were only 4 groupings in the football playoffs, and the sky did not fall. We have increased the number of groups in order to provide more access without lengthening the playoffs, but this all-comers format would allow you to actually reduce the number of Divisions.

Reducing the number of Divisions has many attendant benefits. There's reduced travel. With fewer championship games, you have more scheduling flexibility, including possibly squeezing all of the State Finals into 1 day at Ford Field (although I concede this is a tight turnaround). Moreover, I just have a hard time believing that Ford Field is ABSOLUTELY unavailable next weekend. If the MHSAA was seriously contemplating moving the Finals back, I just feel something could be worked out with the interested parties.
Rod Bragg
Saturday, November 28, 2009 12:16 PM
Expanding the playoffs, I feel will only continue to crunch down the Class D's. Witness that only 28 D's (check the # to be sure) made the playoffs this this year. There is a big difference in the small D's and the small C's. 8 man will be an interesting addition, as many of the Northern D's are either switching to 8 man or contemplating making the switch. C-D conferences are in a dilemma with this. OUr conference has 9 schools, 3 or 4 are struggling with numbers and within in a couple years may jump. Maybe our legislature in their divine wisdom will allow schools to start the week of the 1st football game instead of after Labor day. But then the $ is more important than education.
# Anonymous
Saturday, November 28, 2009 4:53 PM
James Bond
# James Bond
Saturday, November 28, 2009 7:13 PM
Disagree completely with Brett Holt's statements. One team per conference!? So that keeps Montague from winning the D6 title last year and Ravenna from reaching the semis in D7, since they both lost to conference champ and eventual D5 champ Muskegon Oakridge in 2008. Some conferences are simply tougher than others and you shouldn't be penalized for playing in one.
Texas is
# Texas is
Sunday, November 29, 2009 12:21 AM
one of the few states that has a higher percentage of teams making the playoffs. in 2007 533 teams out of 1153 (46%) qualified for the state playoffs. Michigan has 256 of 619 (41%) Texas has 12 divisions with 2 of those divisions being 6 man football. Michigan has 8. Texas also has a ten week schedule. It seems to me that since Texas has an odd number of teams (533) making the playoffs that they must schedule byes for higher seeded teams. Would Michigan's playoff system be better if those 5-4 teams were left out and the teams scheduled to play them were granted a week off?
Charlie Johnston
# Charlie Johnston
Sunday, November 29, 2009 8:49 AM
Leave well enough alone. Too many first round blow-outs as it is.
Jim Collins
# Jim Collins
Tuesday, December 1, 2009 12:07 PM
I agree with Mr. Roberts on most of his views but I do not totally agree with what is being done with football. First of all the playoffs should never have been expanded. I know this was not the MHSAA's idea-it came from the coaches and it was a big mistake. We talked about the problems with numbers at the smaller schools in our post-season meeting and I attrubute this to the early start of the season. We have soccer at the Division 7 school I coach at and that does not help with the participation in football. When I was a senior at Hazel Park you had to go 9-0 or 8-1 to make the playoffs and it was nice to start our season the week before school started. We had a week of doubles, 2 four way scrimmages and then our season started. Our first game was well into the school year. I would like to know how many AD's think there gate receipts are not hurt because of having games during summer vacation?!

I do not agree with having the tournament over thanksgiving break. I know, what about work and things of that nature but I think if they were the following weekend or even two weeks after you would have great attendance at Ford Field on Friday and Saturday, no matter what. Remember it really is going to hamper a few of the schools year in and year out-Rockford, East Grand Rapids, Lowell, Beal City or any other school that seemingly is there every year or every other year. The bottom line is this-reduce the playoffs to 7 wins and you are in, and move the championships back two weeks and the start of the season two weeks and you will see more participation. I am only saying 7 wins to make the 6 win people happy.
I truly would like to see it go back to the way it was in the 80's.

Oh one other thing-weather would not be factor with all the field turf fields available. I know spread teams do not want to hear that but weather should not be even considered in this argument-WE DO LIVE IN MICHIGAN!!!
# Brian
Tuesday, December 1, 2009 4:01 PM
The post season is already over half of the length of the regular season. It would be rediculous to have a six week playoff schedule for an eight game regular season.
# woody16
Tuesday, December 1, 2009 6:54 PM
I like the number of weeks and number of teams that qualify for the playoffs. What I don't like is how they determine the divisions once they find the quallified teams. I believe this is the only playoff system in the state maybe even the entire country that you may not know who your competition is going to be until the playoffs again. For teams that are on the "bubble" between divisions has an almost impossilble task of preparing their teams for the playoffs. I don't like to call it unfair because life is unfair, but a team that is playing teams from a division, is competitive in a division and had planned to be in the division, only to be bumped up into the higer division because one team bigger in size failed to make the playoffs is unfortunate.

I believe that they should divide the divisions equally before the season based on enrollment. Then the best 32 teams based on 6 wins and then playoff points. I figured it out and division 2 would have had around 6-8 teams at 5-4 and a couple of divisions and one or two at 6-3 not get in. It would not be a big difference, but it would be more fair to the "bubble" teams that never know what division they will be in until the end.
# marx
Tuesday, December 1, 2009 9:23 PM
Personally going back to eight games wouldn't be a bad idea.it gives the players an extra week to get in condition.However leave the playoffs alone.If a team can't win six of nine games they don't deserve to be in the playoffs anyway.
# Brian
Wednesday, December 2, 2009 9:37 AM
HEY WOODY16- Are you going to be the one to tell the 6-3 teams that they are not in the playoffs while there are plenty of 5-4 teams in, or are you going to leave that one to the MHSAA.

Should a team that is 5-4 really be given a chance at a state title? 5-4 shows that they are obviously not the best team in the state. There are at least 4 teams that are better...
# Adam
Wednesday, December 2, 2009 9:40 AM
Folks: an emphasis on who "deserves" to make the playoffs may be emotionally satisfying, but it doesn't resolve the scheduling problems. The only way I can see to solve the scheduling problem is to make the schedule that a school plays a moot point. And the only way to make it a moot point is to let everyone make the playoffs.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009 2:03 PM

I think the playoff system now is fine. Yeah some 5-4 teams make it in but usually they are matched up with a much better team and if the 5-4 team wins that then they should show they've proved themselves worth of being in the playoffs.
# woody16
Wednesday, December 2, 2009 8:08 PM
Orchard Lake St. Mary's was 4-4 and made the playoffs and almost beat East Grand Rapids so I would say if they play the tough schedule they do derserve it. OLSM proved it.
Matthew A. Anderson
Thursday, December 3, 2009 10:09 AM
No matter what we do with the post-season, there's always going to be an angle where someone finds fault. So we go with the solution that makes the most sense, makes it competitive and fun. That's what we have now! I have the pleasure to talk to over a hundred coaches every year when I do my preview and an overwhelming majority support the system, the way it is now. If the men on the sidelines that dedicate their life to the game every year support the current system, I am right behind them.
# msnoeyink@hotmail.com
Tuesday, December 22, 2009 5:21 PM
I like the current playoff system for all the reasons mentioned by the Director.

As far as scheduling, I suggest letting teams attempt to schedule 9 games on their own. Teams that haven't filled up their schedule by a certain date, get paired by the MHSAA. MHSAA would try to minimize travel, make good choices about home/away, and involves out-of-state teams, if necessary.

Also, I would suggest not treating a 5-3 record the same as a 6-3 record to get into the playoffs. This gives teams no incentive at all to schedule their 9th game against a good team. If a team thinks it can go 5-3 with its 8-game schedule, why in the world would they schedule Mendon for their 9th game? If they don't play, they're in (at 5-3); But if they play and lose, they're out (at 5-4). If the rule were changed to "6 wins, you're in" for 8-game seasons too, that same team would have nothing to lose (at 5-3, they're out), and everything to gain, by playing a 9th game, even against a good team.

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