[Back to News]

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE --December 3, 1998
Contact: John Johnson or Mike Clifford-- 517.332.5046

Representative Council Votes To Expand Football Playoffs With Modifications To Plan; Implementation To Take Place In 1999

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Dec. 3 -- The Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association voted Wednesday to expand its post-season football playoffs to a five-week, 256-team tournament effective in 1999, but made modifications to the publicized proposal to ease school's concerns for scheduling and isolated concerns for earlier competition in the Fall. The announcement was made here today at the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals Conference at the Grand Traverse Resort.

The action of the Council to expand the tournament to a fifth week comes after its vote in May, consistent with a 73 percent favorable vote by schools, to go on record as favoring expansion and directing the MHSAA staff to develop and present a plan to the membership for discussion in time for the Fall meeting.

The plan discussed with schools during the Fall would have qualified virtually all schools with six or more victories for the playoffs, which would begin a week earlier to accommodate the addition of an another level of play. Schools wishing to play a nine-game schedule would have to begin their regular season a week earlier.

The Council modified the proposal to also qualify teams playing eight regular-season games if they win five games.

Under the adopted proposal, those schools whose win total qualify them for the playoffs will be ranked by enrollment following the completion of the regular season, and then divided into eight divisions of 32 schools each. If fewer than 256 schools qualify by win total, the excluded teams with the highest computer playoff averages would be added to fill out the field, with an equal number of schools coming from Classes A, B, C and D. No teams with losing records would qualify. In the unlikely event that more than 256 schools qualify by win total, the teams with the lowest playoff averages would be deleted from the field in an equal number from each class. In 1997, 230 schools would have qualified by win total.

Under the proposal, approximately 40 percent of the football playing schools in each class (A, B, C and D) would qualify for the playoffs.

Once the 256-team field is set, the 32 teams in each division will be drawn into Districts and Regions. The four-team Districts would have the team with the top playoff average hosting the fourth-ranked team;
and the second hosting the third. The second week of the tournament would be the District Final, played at the site of the highest ranked team. The Regional championship would be played the following weekend, with the method host either being predetermined by draw or by playoff average. Semifinal games would continue as in the past, with predetermined Regional champions playing each other at prearranged sites, and the Finals continuing to take place at the Pontiac Silverdome on Thanksgiving weekend.

The modification to make five wins the qualifying number for schools playing eight-game schedules was made to better accommodate schools which either had difficulty in securing a nine-game schedule or did not wish to begin their regular-season a week earlier.

In a seven-year calendar, football playing schools would begin practice only two days earlier on five occasions. Schools with a nine-game schedule would have only one preseason scrimmage.

The Council also voted to recommend that schools which intend to keep a nine-game schedule slide entire schedules forward by one week to accommodate the change, and to do the same with the officials assigned to those contests.

This is the fourth expansion of the playoffs since they began in 1975 with four teams in each class. The tournament expanded to 32 teams in 1977, 64 teams in 1985, and then doubled the number of teams again by splitting each class in 1990, upping the number of schools to 128.

Following the presentation of the plan to member schools during the Fall, football-playing institutions were surveyed. Of 454 valid surveys returned, 91 percent favored the plan, and 85 percent favored expansion in 1999.

In other action, the Representative Council voted to eliminate the separate Upper Peninsula Girls Volleyball Tournament and to include Upper Peninsula schools with Lower Peninsula schools in a unified girls volleyball tournament beginning with the 1999-2000 school year. The Council also approved a five-year extension of its contract to play the Football Finals at the Pontiac Silverdome through the year 2004, and voted to return the Lower Peninsula Cross Country Finals to Michigan Speedway in Brooklyn for 1999 and 2000.

The Representative Council is the 19-member legislative body of the MHSAA. All but five members are elected by member schools. Four members are appointed by the Council to facilitate representation of females and minorities; and the 19th position is occupied by the Superintendent of Public Instruction or designee.

The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by over 1,300 public, private and parochial high schools and junior high/middle schools. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which does not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools may participate in MHSAA tournaments conducted in 12 sports for girls and 12 sports for boys which attract approximately 1.3 million spectators each year.

Click here for a Q & A on the Football Playoff Expansion