The WIAA football playoff pairings come out later today. 224 teams make the post-season--and half of them shouldn't be in. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against kids getting to experience the playoffs, its just that so many teams mean too many games to determine state champions.
Because so many teams make the playoffs, the WIAA has to play first round games on a Tuesday night--just five days after the completion of the regular season--with second round games just four days later. And that is where I have a problem. Three games in ten days puts kids at risk for injuries when it really isn't that necessary.
Sports like basketball, soccer, and softball include every school in the playoffs--but those sports aren't nearly as physically demanding as football. There is a reason we play just one game a week at every level of football--the body needs the time to recover properly.
While they won't say so publicly, many coaches have told me off the record they don't like the Tuesday night first round game for many the same reasons. Not enough turnaround time for the kids and not enough time for them to prepare for two opponents in one week.
While including every team in the basketball playoffs gives also-rans hope to catch lightning in a bottle and make a Cinderella run to Madison, the football playoffs hardly ever play out like that. Often times there are reasons that some teams lose only once a season and others barely break .500. When you look at the state champs crowned since the field expanded to include all five-win teams the most losses suffered by a state champion at any level is two.
I certainly hope the driving force behind the ever expanding playoffs isn't money. An extra home game might mean a few more pieces of new equipment for some teams--but that doesn't justify overworking the kids. I would also hope that coaches don't think limping into the playoffs equals job security. Let's trim things back to the top 16-teams in each division--with seven wins being the automatic qualifier--with just one game a week on the road to Madison. I think it will make for better and safer competition.