Coaches: bigger playoffs better

Proposal to double field from 8 to 16 teams gains support across county


High Schools

January 17, 2002|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A proposal to double the size of the state football playoffs is drawing widespread support from Carroll County coaches.

Under the plan, which would go into effect in 2003 if approved, 16 teams would qualify for the postseason. The current system sends the top eight teams to the playoffs: the winner of each of the four regions and the four teams - regardless of classification - with the next-highest point totals.

"I think it's a great thing," South Carroll coach Gene Brown said. "Right now you're in a situation where, at least in [Class] 3A, you can finish 9-1 and be sitting at home. That makes no sense to me at all."

The measure would go a long way for schools like Westminster, which hasn't qualified for the playoffs since 1981 but would have made it each of the past four years under the proposed system. The Owls, who are in the larger Class 4A, are routinely hurt by playing a schedule composed mainly of Class 3A teams from the Central Maryland Conference, since larger schools receive fewer playoff points for beating smaller ones.

"I think it's a positive thing for Maryland football," Westminster coach Scott Tobias said. "I think it will help promote the game, and maybe give exposure to good teams that aren't getting in the playoffs."

Earlier this month, the measure was approved by the state football committee, 9-0. On Feb. 1, it must clear the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association's executive council, which includes the president, president-elect and district representatives.

If the plan survives, it would then be presented to the board of controls in late April for final approval.

"We tried to make a proposal two years ago and it didn't go through, so this is something we've been trying to work out so that it would have the best chance of making it through," said Hammond's Joe Russo, president of the Maryland State Football Coaches Association. "The only negative thing we've heard is the financial part of it."

Under the plan, all schools would be scheduled with nine regular-season games. During the 10th week, teams that qualify for the playoffs would start the postseason, while those that don't would play a 10th game that would match teams based on the previous year's state ratings, as well as other factors such as proximity.

If a non-playoff team is scheduled to play a playoff team, however, the game would be canceled, resulting in the loss of possibly thousands of dollars in ticket and concession sales. Even if the 10th game were to be played, some think it would be poorly attended because it would have little impact on the postseason.

"I think the positives outweigh the negatives," Tobias said. "I don't know if there's a football coach in the state who's against it."

Russo said another proposal included every team - there are 168 - in the playoffs, but it was quickly rejected by coaches and officials who balked at the idea of an eight-game regular-season schedule.

"Everybody else in the state has a chance to get in the playoffs except for football," Russo said. "We'd just like to be almost the same as everybody else."

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