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MHSAA Football Playoff Expansion: A Question & Answer Session

Question -- Why did the Association expand the playoffs?

Answer -- In a survey this Spring of member schools, 73 percent favored some type of expansion of the playoffs beyond the 128-team tournament that has been in place since 1990. The MHSAA Representative Council, acting on that information, voted in May to expand the playoffs, and directed the Association staff to develop a plan, bring that information back to the Representative Council at its December meeting for action.

Why didn't the Association simply double the number of teams and leave the current playoff operation in place?

Doubling the number of teams would not have eliminated the problem of some 8-1 and many 7-2 schools missing the playoffs; and would have greatly increased the number of 4-5 and 3-6 teams in the tournament.

But are 7-2 and 6-3 teams truly playoff worthy?

Yes. One champion in the 1998 tournament was 6-3 at the end of the regular season. One of the major criticisms of the previous system was that you wouldn't make the playoffs with a loss or two. This way, a team that finishes strong, or that was missing a key player for a game or two, could still make the playoffs.

There are a number of "blowouts" in the tournament. Won't this increase the possibility of that happening?

To just double the number of teams would have greatly increased the number of mismatches. However, eliminating teams with losing records reduces the chances of lopsided games.

But won't some schools try to arrange schedules to guarantee the minimum number of wins to play in the tournament?

Perhaps. But scheduling concerns have always been an issue as they relate to the playoffs. Schools which look for the so-called easy win may be shortchanging themselves when it comes to playoff points, which will be used to determine home fields for up to the first three weeks of the playoffs, and which will be used to select additional qualifiers for the tournament and to eliminate teams from the field when more than 256 schools meet the minimum win standard.

How many 6 and 5 win teams are there in a given year?

Reserarch indicates that in over the past 10 years, about 225 schools had 6 wins. In 1997, three additional teams with 8 game schedules won 5 games and would have qualified by win total.

Explain again how the field would be filled out if fewer than 256 teams qualify by win total.

Let's say, for example, that 232 schools qualify by win total. To determine the additional 24 qualifiers, the top 6 playoff point averages of the remaining teams in each of Classes A, B, C and D, would be inserted into the field. An equal number of schools from each class would be added.

Then the reverse is true if more than 256 teams qualify by win total?

Exactly. If 260 teams would qualify by win total, then the team with the lower playoff point average from each of Class A, B, C and D would not qualify for the playoffs.

How would teams be classified for the tournament and assigned to regions?

Once the 256 qualifiers are known, they would be ranked by enrollment, and divided into eight divisions of 32 schools each. Once the 32 schools are known in each division, they would be drawn into four regions of 8 teams, and then each region would be drawn into two districts of four teams. As opposed to previous years, some schools would not absolutely know what enrollment division nor region they would fall into for tournament play until after the regular season is completed.

Why are there different win qualifying standards for teams playing nine and eight-week game schedules?

Some teams have difficulty obtaining nine and eight game schedules on an annual basis. Some schools, to accommodate their local climate, may not wish to begin their regular season earlier. This gives schools an approximately equal chance of qualifying for the playoffs regardless of the number of games they wish to play. In 1997, only 11 schools had eight-game schedules; and in 1998, 19 schools played fewer than nine games

What is the impact on the calendar for a school playing a nine-game regular-season schedule?

Those schools would play two games before Labor Day in five out of seven years. They would also begin practice two days earlier in those years.

How did the Association develop the plan?

After 73 percent of MHSAA member schools indicated in a survey last Spring that they wished Football Playoff expansion, the Representative Council of the Association, its legislative body, went on record as favoring expansion and directed the MHSAA staff to develop and present a plan. Information was presented to a group of school administrators and coaches in June, and the plan was further refined over the summer in presentations to athletic directors, high school principals and football coaches. During the fall, the plan was presented to school administrators at the MHSAA's annual Update meeting series. A survey of football playing schools following the Update series was taken, and 91 percent of the schools responding indicated they favored the plan, and 85 percent wished to see implementation in 1999.