Area football coaches react to playoff change proposals

REED CITY — The Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) is expected to announc later this week its decision on a new proposal for determining the state’s 256 football playoff teams.

Last week, the MHSAA’s representative council met on the proposal which had the approved of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHFCA) and the MHSAA football committee.

The current system has been in place since 1998.

The new proposal would emphasize strength of schedule rather than guarantee that all teams with six wins on a nine-game schedule and five on an eight-game schedule would make the five-week playoff system.

There would still be 32 teams in eight different divisions for the playoffs. But the proposal’s supporters want to get rid of the six-game guarantee for making the playoffs. There would be several changes from the current format. The MHSFCA originally had no automatic qualifier in its proposal, but later added the seven, the association noted in its recent newsletter.

  • Playoff divisions currently are determined on selection Sunday after the 256 qualifying teams have been determined. Those 256 teams are split into eight divisions depending on enrollment. Under the new proposal, all football playing schools in the state would be split into eight divisions depending on enrollment and 32 in each one would make the playoffs.
  • Six wins in nine games or five in eight gets a team in the playoffs currently. Seven wins would be the new automatic qualifier.
  • Additional qualifiers outside of the automatic ones get in now by playoff points by adding a Class A team then Class B, then Class C, etc. The proposed format would use playoff points and fill additional spots until each division gets 32 teams. The class system, A through D, would be dropped. The new system would have points based on eight divisions with 88 for Division 1, 80 for Division 2....and down to 32 points for Division 8.
  • The new format would give a team points for each of its opponents’ wins, regardless of whether or not the team beat that opponent, and would have a bonus-point multiplier depending on the enrollment size of its opponent.

Geoff Kimmerly, MHSAA media and content coordinator, noted that a similar proposal to change the format, endorsed by the football committee, has previously come up to the representative council.

“I’m sure this will have a lot of conversation,” he said. “The people on the council are very familiar with this topic. It’s been discussed for a while. There’s football people involved with the council.”

Kimmerly said Monday there would be an announcement later this week on the council’s decision.

Those skeptical of strength of schedule concepts point out that a 4-5 team could make the playoffs and a 6-3 squad might not.

“The proposal we’re talking about got there last year, but the council said it would like another year of data,” Kimmerly said. “When the coaches association came to us, we took what they wanted to do and matched it up with data from the previous season.”

Monty Price, Reed City football coach, whose team has gone 9-0 the past three regular seasons, sees plusses with the new system.

“Strength of schedule will help with the scheduling nightmare for quality programs,” Price said.

“There are points to the proposal that I like and others that I dislike,” Evart coach Pat Craven said. “I do believe that this proposal was made so private schools and larger schools will have an easier time qualifying for the playoffs. My fear is that a proposal such as this will push smaller schools into 8-man football.

“Many small towns really cling to their 11-man football teams and should not be forced into making a decision they do not want to make. Scheduling will be the biggest problem for smaller schools, as it does not benefit a larger school to ever play a smaller opponent who has the possibility of having a mediocre record.”

Terry Martin of Pine River said a plus for the proposal is that teams will be more likely to increase their difficulty of schedule and not look for easy wins to try to get to six. But he sees a more difficult challenge for smaller schools in their scheduling efforts.

“At Pine River, our non-conference schedule consists of Kalkaska, Benzie Central, and Godwin Heights,” he said. “This would be a great schedule in the new system but I do not see those teams wanting to continue scheduling us if the change occurs. They would be put into a situation where they would need to find larger schools to play in order to keep up with the points they need for the playoff qualifier.”