Football coaches comment on new playoff system

Evart coach Pat Craven has expressed reservations with the new playoff system. (Herald Review file photo)

Evart coach Pat Craven has expressed reservations with the new playoff system. (Herald Review file photo)

EVART – Starting with games this season, football teams will still be striving to make the playoffs.

But it’s a little different this year.

Last season because of COVID, all teams made the playoffs. This year, the format goes back to the change which was made after the 2019 season. Teams will now get in strictly on computer playoff points and strength of schedule. Six wins on a nine-tame schedule is no longer a guarantee as it had been since the 1999 season.

There will still be 256 teams in 11-man football making the playoffs and 32 in each division. But now each division has been predetermined going into the season based on enrollment, Teams with the highest playoff rankings will make it. It will be a five-week playoff starting Oct. 29-30 and ending Thanksgiving weekend.

The MHSAA said 516 schools are slated for 11-player football in 2021, with 64-to 65 teams in each Division. There were will be 260 schools that don’t make it.

“I am looking forward to seeing how it works this year, and excited to get the season started with this new format,” Reed City coach Scott Shankel said.

Not all local coaches like it.

“I think the new format really helps the schools that created it, private high schools and large powerhouse schools,” Evart coach Pat Craven said. “It will continue to create scheduling difficulties for smaller schools because there is no incentive to play a school from a smaller division.

“In the long run, I'm not sure how much will change for us, but I worry for Division 8 schools that are trying to hold on to 11-man football. I've proposed to the MHSAA and the MHSFCA (coaches association) that we adopt an 8-game regular season with all teams qualifying for the playoffs just like every other high school sport in Michigan.”

“I think the new system will make it easier for the large schools to find opponents to schedule based on the benefit of playing larger schools,” Pine River coach Terry Martin said. “Smaller schools provide less of a benefit to their opponents so I fear it will make things more difficult for some of them. Thankfully for us our conference and geographic location puts us in a good spot for scheduling so hopefully we will not have those challenges. I do like the predetermined division lists.”