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Mick McCabe: MHSAA council misjudged when voting down new football playoff format

1:00 AM, May. 09, 2013 EDT

Jack Roberts, executive director of the Michigan High School Athletic Association. / Associated Press

The Enhanced Strength of Schedule System that would dramatically change the high school football playoffs has been put on hold.

It will likely be on hold forever.

The representative council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association overwhelmingly voted not to adopt the format, which had the wholehearted support of the football coaches association.

"The more that this has been discussed, the less it has been liked," said MHSAA executive director Jack Roberts. "The purpose for this, as I understood it, was to make scheduling easier and there is a strong opinion that it will make it more difficult because the mindset changes from six-and-in to seven-and-in that's going to make matters worse, not better."

The biggest difference between the proposal and what we have now is the point system used to award points for beating and even losing to opponents would radically change.

Schools would be rewarded for playing good teams and that would have gone a long way in solving the scheduling problem.

"We ran the numbers and kind of retrofitted them into 2012 to see what it looked like," Roberts said. "When teams are in the playoffs with 4-5 records and not in the playoffs with 6-3 records, you're going to have a lot of explaining to do."

The explanation would be simple: Play better opponents and you will make the playoffs.

No longer guaranteeing teams with six wins a playoff spot scared some coaches.

The MHSAA unwittingly torpedoed this proposal when it said teams would have to win seven games to have an automatic playoff spot.

That is when human nature took over.

Some coaches didn't take time to notice that the vast majority of six-win teams made the playoffs under the new system. They were preoccupied trying to figure how they would schedule seven automatic victories.

Too many coaches construct their schedule to guarantee them six wins and a playoff spot.

One of the coaches who wrote me in opposition to the proposal was Tim Swore of Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian. He was adamant that this would hurt small schools.

But when you actually look at the proposal, you see that Frankfort, Morrice, Sterling Heights Parkway Christian and Coleman all would have made the Division 8 playoffs with 4-5 records.

Under the new system, NorthPointe would not have made the Division 6 playoffs despite its 6-3 record. The reason -- its schedule.

NorthPointe had four non-conference opponents last season and played Bath (3-6), Southfield Christian (3-6), Eau Claire (0-9) and Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (0-9), all Division 7 schools.

Three 4-5 Division 6 teams that would not have made the playoffs all had higher playoff point averages than NorthPointe, which lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Geography also played a role in the proposal's demise as outstate schools figured it was designed solely for schools in large metropolitan areas, which is untrue.

In Division 4, Escanaba, at 4-5, had a higher playoff point average than 7-2 Goodrich and 8-1 Battle Creek Pennfield.

"Large schools with strong programs or even medium-size schools with strong programs that are isolated are placed at a disadvantage," Roberts said. "In meeting after meeting I hear this just shifts the problem from one group of schools to another group of schools and there's not a lot of excitement for it."

The bottom line is many people did not take the time to truly understand the new proposal and simply voted no.

Now insecure coaches can continue to schedule their way into the state playoffs.



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