More is Not Better
September 30, 2016
Michigan is generally considered the first state to conduct high school sports tournaments in different classifications based on the enrollment of participating schools, but the Michigan High School Athletic Association may be the last statewide high school organization you will ever hear say "More is better" when it comes to tournament classification. In fact, the MHSAA argues against the classification expansion virus that infects many other states.
While still far from the "Everyone gets a ribbon" philosophy of some youth sports programs, the number of classifications is increasing and the number of schools in each classification is decreasing in the state tournament structures of many states.
While media will opine that increasing classifications waters down the tournament, our arguments are more practical. For example, the more classifications a tournament has, the greater the distance teams must travel for early round games, which is expensive and time consuming for teams and fans alike.
While some people believe more classifications might enhance their favorite team's opportunity to taste success in tournament play, reducing the number of teams in each classification actually leads to more repeat champions, which reduces rather than increases tournament excitement and attendance.
The more classifications there are, the harder it is to find a single venue to host the finals of all the divisions and the less likely that all divisions will enjoy the same services and support. Media are spread thinner, leading to less coverage of tournaments. Audio and video networks find it impossible to cover multiple venues adequately.
The most efficient and economical tournament is a single-class format. Nevertheless, a format that serves a membership where some schools are 100 times larger than others requires separate classifications. But there is a point of very diminished benefits.