Thursday, April 28, 2011

So Much For Merit

The "Give Everybody A Trophy Gang" is at it again.  At the WIAA Annual Meeting this week, the overseer of high school sports in Wisconsin layed out for athletic directors its idea for an all-inclusive football playoff system--that could go into effect next season.  The idea is to take away one of the nine-regular season games--and make that last week the first round of the playoffs--with every team in the state taking part.  All-inclusive playoffs are commonplace in nearly all other WIAA sports.  Everybody gets a shot in basketball, baseball, softball and volleyball--so what is wrong with doing the same for football?  Well...a number of things.

Let's start with just the nature of football.  Unlike basketball, the demanding physicality prevents teams from safely playing more than one game a week.  Under the already-bloated playoff system in place, teams are forced to play three games in the span of ten or eleven days at the end of the regular season through the first two rounds of the playoffs.  In talking with coaches, they hate that--as it takes away from practice and prep time--and it puts a bunch of tired kids on the field for what should be the most important games of the year.  That is why the WIAA is looking to trim the length of the regular season and to stretch out the time dedicated to the playoffs.

Secondly, the first two rounds of the all-inclusive playoffs would be a joke.  Take it from someone who has called more than a few games involving #1 seeds and teams that got in with the minimum of five wins currently needed to make the post-season.  There is a whole lot of running clock in the second half--as clearly-superior teams beat up on teams that should have been practicing for basketball or wrestling.  What is being served by having that same #1 seed taking on a team that didn't win a single regular season game?  Maybe the goal is to get as many backup players a chance to say they played in a post-season contest--because the scrubs would be in very early in all of those games.

And finally, there is something to actually earning a post-season spot.  The current threshhold of five victories--or only four if you play in a conference that has just eight teams--is already too low--but at least it requires you to win some games.  Don't make it?  Then you have learned a valuable life lesson--some teams (and people) are just better at some things than others.

So please WIAA, don't expand the football playoffs.  If anything, shrink the playoff field--and make getting there a true accomplishment.

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