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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE --September 1, 1998
Contact: John Johnson or Mike Clifford 517.332.5046

Football Playoff Expansion Plan Outline Announced

EAST LANSING, Mich. - August 27 - A plan for expanding the Michigan High School Athletic Association's Football Playoffs has been developed over the summer, and will be presented in detail to member schools this fall for their approval, with a final vote to be taken by the group's Representative Council at its Fall meeting in Traverse City on Dec. 2.

Ideas for playoff expansion were initially reviewed in June by a focus group of coaches and administrators. A plan was further refined from that meeting, and then reviewed at the summer workshop of the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators on July 22; the board of directors of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association on July 30; and at the summer meeting of the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals on Aug. 4.

Using the input from those meetings, MHSAA staff will present at its annual Update Meeting series throughout October a plan which will include these features:

· A 5-week, 256-team playoff of 8 divisions, each with an equal number of schools, still ending Thanksgiving weekend;
· No teams with losing records would qualify;

· All teams with 6 or more wins would qualify. Some teams with 5 wins may qualify on the basis of their playoff point average, with a nearly equal number of additional qualifiers being selected from Classes A, B, C and D;

· A nearly equal percentage of schools sponsoring football, approximately 40 percent, would qualify from each of the four classes, up from 18 percent in Class A, 17 percent in Class B, 19 percent in Class C, and 38 percent in Class D, when compared to 1997 qualifiers;

· The selection of the 256 teams, their classification into 8 divisions of 32 schools each, and their assignment into Regions and Districts would all occur on "Selection Sunday" at the conclusion of the regular season. Playoff point averages, with no changes from the current point system, would be used to seed teams within their geographic districts and to determine District pairings and hosts.

Following the presentation of the plan to school administrators at the Update meetings, a mail survey will be sent to football sponsoring schools so that by the Representative Council meeting in December, the final plan, its rationale and the membership's reaction can be used to make a final decision.

"This plan incorporates a number of changes from how the MHSAA Football Playoffs have been conducted in the past, including the classification of schools for the tournament and how playoff points are used in the process," said John E. "Jack" Roberts, executive director of the Association. "Many people who opposed previous playoff expansion plans see this as a way of getting quality teams into the tournament, and at the same time, relieving some of the pressure on leagues and conferences, and on schools which historically have trouble scheduling opponents."

The plan would allow, but not require schools to begin practices and regular-season play a week earlier. The classification process of teams for the tournament would not occur until Selection Sunday, when all of the 6-win teams have been identified and additional teams have been added to fill out the bracket. (NOTE - In the past 10 years, no more than 241 schools had 6 or more wins during the regular season) Schools would become aware of pairings Sunday night or Monday the first week of the playoffs, the first three weeks of which would be conducted at host schools based on district and regional alignments and playoff point averages. Semifinal sites would continue to be arranged by the MHSAA office.

The MHSAA Representative Council voted last May to expand the football playoffs, but not to the extent of a 6-week, 512-school format; and it directed the staff to develop a plan to its consideration at its Fall meeting.

"Those who have opposed football playoff expansion because it might dilute the playoffs and cause more early round mismatches may be pleased with this proposal," said Roberts. "Those who didn't want games or practices to start earlier may be less pleased because schools will be able to maintain a 9-game regular-season schedule only if they start games a week earlier and begin practices 2 days earlier in 5 of the next 7 years."

The proposal would allow schools to schedule games and practices earlier in 1999. Expansion to the 5-week playoff is scheduled to occur in 2000 under this proposal.