Monday, October 18, 2010

Does Section II football have a playoff seeding issue?

When it came to my attention this weekend that the Class B Reinfurt Division No. 3 and 4 seeds would come down to a quarterpoint tiebreaker and that Cairo-Durham had not kept track of or reported the quarter scores from its home games, I have to admit I was a little bit flabbergasted. The Class C North Division tiebreaker between Mechanicville, Tamarac and Granville was also not clear and left everyone wondering who would get in until the Section II coaches' meeting on Sunday morning.

Class AA and Class B have the same postseason seeding rules, but Class A's are different from Class C's, which are different from Class D. Does that make any sense to you? You can read the rules online here, but good luck making sense of them, since there are so many fuzzy details to sort out in terms of teams with unbalanced schedules and when certain tiebreakers trump another.

Should Section II impose a transparent, section-wide rule structure for the postseason seeds?

One option is taking the approach that basketball and baseball and softball use. League chairpersons and a committee of experienced and respected former coaches and athletic directors could meet and debate the merits of each team and seed them one through eight regardless of division or overall won-loss records. It would be controversial, as the basketball and baseball seeds always are, but the good teams are going to rise to the top anyway, right? In a seven-week regular season where many teams are playing one if not two games outside their divisions, doesn't a system that takes those games into account make more sense?

Better yet, like Class D, there could be just one division in Classes AA, A, B and D (C has too many teams for a one-division structure) and the top eight teams in order - or the top four after an eight-week regular season - play off. No. 1 would host No. 8, No. 2 hosts No. 7 and so on. Schools could hold on to one or two rivalry games and flip-fop the rest of the schedule every other year so that the schedules remain balanced. Then, decide tiebreakers by head-to-head outcomes when possible and use quarterpoints as a last resort. Obviously, not all of the teams would get a chance to play one another, but at least every game would count toward the postseason unless there were an odd number of teams. What is the point of having Class B and A teams play the first two weeks against teams from the opposite division if those games ultimately do not count for anything?

Since so many teams jump between classifications from year to year, it is hard to come up with a set of rules that could be set in stone. Some years a certain class may have an even number of teams and some years the number may be odd, meaning teams will have to play teams from other classes or other sections to round out a seven-week regular season.

Relying on foggy quarterpoint tiebreakers when opposing coaches claim different outcomes immediately after games. Tamarac's Erick Roadcap correctly stated that his Bengals would be No. 4 and Mechanicville would be No. 3 after Friday's double overtime loss to Mechanicville. Red Raiders head coach Kevin Collins said they would have to wait and see what happened with the tiebreaker, but claimed the Raiders were definitely in. Granville head coach Mario Torres told the Post Star he had told him team β€œwin and you're in.” They did and they'll be playing a crossover game this weekend. That doesn't seem right that there was so much confusion on the interpretation of the rules.

The easiest way – and to me, the most entertaining – would be to leave the seeding to a super committee the Saturday night after the final week of the regular season. Would Ballston Spa still be seeded higher than Niskayuna in the Class AA pairings if a committee took the Scotties' Week Seven drubbing at the hands of the Silver Warriors into account? Perhaps the outcome of the game would have been different had the game had any implication on either team's seeding scenarios, which that game did not. Ballston Spa clinched the No. 1 seed in the Empire Division, even with the loss. This solution would make every team want to play all-out all the time every week in an effort to look as impressive as possible.Certainly running up the score would become an issue, but I think the committee would understand when a team put the brakes on and not worry about specific numbers too much.

Now, the only two teams really affected in this whole mess were Cohoes and Granville. If Cohoes had beat Cairo-Durham head-to-head, the Tigers would be in the playoffs. If Granville had defeated Tamarac head-to-head, the Golden Horde would be in the playoffs. To an extent, all of this is a moot point, but it's clear that Section II needs to do something about this problem and clarify its postseason tiebreaker rules or come up with a new system entirely - before this happens again.

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