Tonight is the first night of the WIAA High School Football Playoffs. It is also the worst night of High School Football of the year. There will be more blowouts, routs and running clocks in the second half than in any other week of the year. You know why? Because about 3/4's of the WIAA playoff field should be at home getting ready for the next sports season.
224 teams make the WIAA Football Playoff field--32 teams in seven divisions based on enrollment. In each of those divisions, at most 5 or 6 schools have a legitimate chance at winning a state title. The "reward" of making the post-season requires nothing more than a .500 record in conference play. That is why every year, there are teams with overall losing records that make the playoffs--because there aren't 224 teams that finish with good enough regular season performances.
And those teams that scrape in with the barely-good-enough records get to meet teams like Kimberly, Brookfield Central, Arrowhead, Homestead and St Mary's Springs in the first round--and get blown off the field. A few get lucky and match up against equally-mediocre squads in games that aren't particularly well-played--but at least are somewhat competitive.
Supporters of the "Playoffs for nearly everyone" status-quo can point to Winneconne's Cinderella run to a state title a few years ago and say "See, that proves teams with losing records can still go all the way!" But that is one team--who played smaller schools than they had all regular season--in the 45-year history of the WIAA Playoffs. Unlike basketball where a team with lesser talent can scheme its way past better, deeper opponents, skill, depth and especially strength differences in football are nearly impossible to overcome. The play clock and the need to continue to make first downs guarantees that.
Trimming the playoff field considerably would also show that the WIAA is serious about the "protecting the kids" philosophy it espouses in public service announcements you can hear on this very radio station. The teams that have legit shots at state titles have to play five more games to get the gold ball. That is more than half the games they play in the regular season--and five more nights of helmet-to-helmet contact that doctors say is cumulative in effect.
So to the 190 or so "also rans", I say congratulations on making the playoffs. Now enjoy the butt-whippings coming your way.