GAINESVILLE – If there isn’t a more important time now for the FHSAA outside of the upcoming state championships for fall sports, it is going to be the upcoming reclassification process.
How important is it you ask?
Four years worth of time.
Four years is equal to one term for the United States presidency, governorship for most states as well as the length of a term for most of your local elected officials.
Four years is a very long time in the world. Things can change in just four years. Look at history and you will see that things can change in a flash.
Why, I am expressing four years? It is simple: That is how long our district alignments will last starting for the 2015-16 school year.
That means once districts are finalized early next year, they will remain the same for four years. That means you will see the same district opponents through the 2018-19 school year.
Furthermore, this just doesn’t just apply to football. It applies to ALL sports.
Yes, ALL sports.
However, the major problems faced in football with alignments are much more of an issue than the ones faced say in basketball, softball or even volleyball. Football’s issue is sort of unique.
Roughly there are 550 FHSAA members fielding a football team this season. Of those, just roughly around 475 are partaking in the FHSAA state series for football. That is leaving roughly close to 75 to 80 teams not participating in the state series.
Even by our rough calculations, the number of teams that will take part in the series next year won’t see much growth. At most, we are looking at roughly 480-485 teams, The added 10 to 15 teams will likely be the public schools and few private schools that sat out the last two seasons playing as an independent.
As for the rest teams left? Expect them to stay independent. They are happy with their situation now that has allowed them create independent conference that works within inside the 11 week regular season schedule plus an extra week for a bowl game (championship game) at the end of the season.
Conferences like the Sunshine State Athletic Conference (which grew from just 12 teams last year to 26 plus this season) and the Southeastern Football Conference have grown tremendously in the last few years are very happy with what they have now and would like to stay the course.
So take roughly 485 schools, divide up the highest 2/3 to the top four highest classes and the 1/3 to the lowest four classes and well we get a mess because we are now talking about district that could be smaller, maybe even a bit more travel involved and further more just weakening the case for competitiveness than what it is already. In fact, the case for competitiveness is so weak now, that fans are tired of the blowouts this year because teams are just scheduling whoever to fill a schedule with so few district games these days.
Most coaches are tired of the same old, same old with status quo on the football alignments. Change is needed and it has to start somewhere. That somewhere is the FHSAA and they need to listen to the coaches, the teams, the fans and the media who covers these games. What most have seen this year is just pure lack of competitiveness in district football alignments. Most of the districts that seem to have had any competitive balance are the ones that carry six to nine teams and those are far and few between.
So how would we tackle such an issue with the football alignments? It would take several steps, but it could be done.
First, scrap the 2/3 and 1/3 division of the schools among whatever how many classes you have. The 1/3 going to the lowest four is doing no one any favors in terms of travel in some areas. One good example is having District 3A-2 going all the way from Tallahassee, snaking over to Gainesville and Ocala and then reaching over to the east in Daytona Beach. That sure sounds like a reduction in travel with that district … NOT!
Second, set in place where no district can be fewer than five teams and this can be done, if teams are placed on a map and are sorted out geographically in a proper sense.
Third, cut the number of classes. Eight classes for just roughly 485 schools is just too much. Pennsylvania roughly has the same amount of schools in just four classes. So the numbers now just don’t prove the value of the FHSAA needing eight classes for football. Other sports might need the expanded classes, but football doesn’t. Heck even soccer only has five classes WITH MORE schools playing soccer in the state series than there are football in EIGHT CLASSES, so to say it can’t be done in football is just totally off balance.
So what kind of alignment systems should we look at? Here are a few ideas.
This reduction of just one class can be involved several different scenarios.
Plan A: Keep Class 1A as is with the rural schools with enrollments 600 or under that meet the requirements. Make 2A a capped enrollment of small urban schools at 400 enrollment or under. Classes 3A to 7A would then be divided evenly into 12 districts that would allow for a wildcard system that was used from 1999-2002. So 12 district champions, 12 runner-ups and eight wildcards would advance into the playoffs from each classification. The wildcards would be determined based upon strength of schedule, so every game any team schedules would matter here. Number of playoff teams would actually increase in this situation from 192 to 224, but the districts would be bigger for the most part and we would very much avoid smaller two, three and four team districts. Add on: 1A and 2A would be the same setup as it is now – eight districts, only champion and runner-up advance into the playoffs. No wildcards for those two classes.
Plan B: Scrap Class 1A rural and divide the teams evenly up into seven classes with only eight districts or rename them as regions taking a page from the Georgia High School Association (GHSA). FHSAA can subdivide regions to fit in line for travel, if it is warranted, with 10 teams or more in a region. In this case 4 teams would advance from each region with the top team getting the highest placement in the bracket. If a region is subdivided, a play in game would be played Week 10 between the subdivide regions among the top four teams from each subdivided region (#1 A vs #1 B – to decide a region champion, #2 A vs. #2 B or some variation of a play in with seeding that can be determined). Bracket would be somewhat different, but here again the number of playoff teams would actually increase in this plan from 192 to 224.
This reduction of just two classes can be involved to strength competition as well.
Plan C: Scrap Class 1A rural and reduced the overall number of classifications to six (pre-2003) and divide schools evenly as possible into the six classes. With this using 2013 numbers (2014 numbers will be out in the next few weeks). The classes would look like what we have seen in the past. Almost all classes would have 80 or 81 teams in them and if you divide that up by 16 then that is just five schools per district average. However, take the wildcard system here which would be beneficial for almost everyone, 12 districts would result in the average of 6 to 7 teams per district. In this situation the number of playoff teams remain the same at 192 teams.
Overall, any of these plans would either keep the same number of teams or increase the number of playoff teams, but make the competitive environment better for the entire state.
Also another thing that the FHSAA should seriously consider is how we handle tiebreakers in football. Is it necessary to ask teams to risk injury on a Monday night before the last game of the season just to break a tie? That is a question I have had with the tiebreaker procedure now for a long time. Instead the FHSAA should use a capped point tiebreaker system to break ties.
It is simple in this tiebreaker and I will take the results of District 7A-1 from 2013 as an example here of how this would work since this district went into a three-way tie. Taking a page from the Texas play book, you can set the cap at 18 points. So if a team won by 30 they would only get 18 points for that win. If a team lost by 30 they would only get hit with a -18 point differential for that loss, not the -30 point differential. So for District 7A-1 we need to decide a district champion and runner-up. First you, need to decided the district champion out of the three teams using the capped point system. After that you will figure out the runner-up based upon head-to-head to break the tie.
First you need to have the scores of the games involving the tied teams only.
District 7A-1 involved Niceville, Crestview and Tate here for this example.
Results: Niceville defeated Tate – 28-6; Tate defeated Crestview 29-24, Crestview defeated Niceville, 17-12
Niceville would get a +18 (capped) for Tate win and -5 for Crestview loss.
Tate would get a -18 (capped) for Niceville loss and a +5 for Crestview win.
Crestview would get a +5 for Niceville win and a a -5 for Tate loss.
Point Differential Total
So as you see here, Niceville would be crowned the district champion as the have the highest point differential total among the three teams.
Now you got to decide the district runner-up to break that tie up. Take Niceville out and start the process over. Here the tie can be broken head-to-head. As such Tate won over Crestview meaning Tate would be the runner-up. If you thought Crestview would be the runner-up in this situation looking at the point differential total, that is not the case.
Overall we just simply broke a three-way tie this way without ever having the teams step foot on the field and risking injury in a quarter tiebreaker game on a Monday night.
But what would happen if the point differential all came out the same in a three-way tie and head-to-head won’t break it? This is where you insert the tiebreaker shootout to handle this situation. This would only be called upon if the capped point tiebreaker cannot break the 3-way tie.
I have stated my opinion, now it is time for you to speak your opinion. Leave a comment below or send us an email by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also you can vote below in the poll.
POLL: So which plan who you rather see be put in place if the FHSAA was to make a change ? Vote below.
Results are non-scientific and purely for entertainment and informational purposes only.