Let's close down points system and open up tournament fields


April 23, 1993|By PAT O'MALLEY

What would you think if the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association did away with the points system for state playoffs and put every team in postseason tournaments no matter what its record was?

The points system is a necessary evil at best. Even some of the most avid high school sports fans often don't understand how teams qualify.

Points are awarded by the size of the school (and there are four classifications) and newspapers print actual records, which adds the confusion. You see a team with an 18-2 record not making the playoffs or being seeded lower than a team at 15-3 and you wonder how that can happen.

It must be explained that two of the wins for the 18-2 team didn't count because they were holiday tournament games, and with a 16-2 record, that team still trails the team with three losses by X number of points.

Simply put, the playoff points scheme is crazy, and an open tournament would be cut and dried.

It could happen, and is being studied and discussed around the metro area by coaches and athletic directors.

"Jim Welsh of Centennial High is studying the financial feasibility of the idea," said Arundel athletic director Bernie Walter, one of the proponents of the concept.

"It would be like a second season and it could save the school system money on transportation, which is what they like to hear. The feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive."

Walter said the idea, which could be presented at the early fall district meetings, would take six playing dates to implement in every team sport, with the exception of football.

Football would continue with the playoff points system -- eight points for a win over a Class 4A school; seven for 3A; six for 2A and five for 1A. The system of awarding a bonus point to a team for every victory one of its beaten opponents gets would be used only in football.

Currently the final qualifier is the total number of points earned by a team divided by the total number of games, for the playoff points average. The average is the bottom line.

Because football is a once-a-week sport, the season would go much too long if all the state public school teams qualified for the postseason tournament.

The new idea would fit all other team sports and encourage the top teams to play each other. That certainly would benefit a program such as Dunbar's basketball team.

It's common knowledge that the Poets are the best year in and year out. Dunbar won a state championship in its first year in the MPSSAAas a Class 1A school.

Starting next school year, Dunbar will be classified 2A, but the top Class 4A schools, which in many cases would give Dunbar a better game than most 2A teams, have nothing to gain by playing the Poets under the current system.

Even if a 4A school defeats Dunbar, it gains only prestige and two fewer points than if the team had beaten a comparable 4A team.

The current system also makes life difficult for some teams within a county. Take Anne Arundel County, where there are nine Class 4A schools among the 12 public schools.

Next year the 4A number will be reduced to eight, and Broadneck will be the lone 3A school with Northeast, Southern and South River playing 2A. As a result, Broadneck boys basketball coach and athletic director Ken Kazmarek is having trouble scheduling games.

Traditional county 4A rivals don't necessarily want to play Broadneck more than once, and if home-and-home deals can't be made, Kaz will have to schedule more games outside the county.

That could be avoided by abolishing the points system and simply making every team eligible for the playoffs. If that were the case, teams could play most of their schedule in their own county without fear of not having enough points for the playoffs.

The one-time lofty status of county championships would be restored. Anne Arundel, for instance, could have two six-team divisions or just a 12-team circuit with the 4As playing 2As an equal number of times without reprisal.

It wouldn't be that big of a deal to include all the teams. Six dates is the maximum number for any one tournament. Under current guidelines, it takes four dates to play the single-elimination state baseball and softball tournaments.

Let's say everybody was given a ticket to a 44-team state 4A tournament. After the first round, 22 would be alive, and after Round 2, 11.

Using a bye, six would be left after the fourth date and four after the fifth, and the last two would play for the championship on the sixth date.

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