Seeded tourneys on way back

Revised pairings system expected starting in fall

MPSSAA playoffs

May 05, 2000|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Last night's lottery draw without seedings for the state open tournaments was apparently the last by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association .

The MPSSAA has recommended that the top four teams by overall records, not including holiday tournament games, will be seeded in all sports, excluding football, with the remainder of the teams in each 16-team region bracket seeded by the blind draw. The change would go into effect next fall.

In football, there is not enough playoff time to include all teams, so qualifying by playoff points will continue.

Last winter, boys and girls basketball tournaments were seeded as an experiment that proved successful. The MPSSAA executive council evaluated the experiment and recommended the expansion to the Board of Control at its annual meeting in Ocean City last weekend.

"We followed up the basketball season with a survey of the state boys and girls coaches, and about half responded in the positive to seed the top four teams again," said Ned Sparks, the MPSSAA executive director.

"It was pretty conclusive that we should go to seeding. It wasn't a unanimous vote to approve seeding, but the majority was in favor. There was some debate whether we should implement it for the fall, but we decided to do so."

The only change from the experiment is the halting of the coin flip for fourth seed that throws the loser into the blind-draw hopper if two or more teams tie by records. Those tied teams, no matter how many, will be seeded four, five, six, etc., by coin flip and will not be subject to a random seed.

Sparks said that though the procedure is "not perfect," it serves as a "happy compromise," because it appeases the many who believed that the blind draw rewarded mediocrity. A winless team could get a first-round bye or home game over an undefeated team.

On the other hand, two top teams could face each other in their opening game. In last night's baseball draw, for example, top-ranked Arundel (14-4) and third-ranked Severna Park (16-2) received the ninth and eighth seeds, respectively, and are forced to meet in the first round.

The new format somewhat maintains the original idea of the open tournament, which allows all teams to participate no matter their record and which has the majority of teams seeded by the luck of the draw.

Each of the state's four enrollment classifications (4A, 3A, 2A and 1A) has four regions, which means there are 16 region champions. In the boys and girls basketball experiment, 26 of the 32 region champions were seeded either No. 1 or No. 2.

Of those seeded first through fourth, 31 of 32 won their respective region titles. Only one unseeded team, Edmondson's boys in Class 2A North, won a region.

"No records were kept for the open tournament, so you have to say the best team did win over the last few years," said Baltimore County administrator of athletics Ron Belinko, who chaired the initial committee that recommended the open tournament.

That committee, which scrapped the old points qualifier that did not include all teams, became known as the "Belinko Commission."

Belinko said his committee studied the process for "an entire year" and believes that the new method should have been studied at least as long.

"It bothers me that all the good people we had on that committee who put in a lot of time trying to come up with the best possible method have had their input disregarded," Belinko said.

"The original committee was against any open tournament without seeding, but after thorough examination and lengthy discussions, we were convinced the open tournament without seeding was the best way to go."

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