Playoff system needs an overhaul

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 3, 2005

Just like the college Bowl Championship Series, it doesn't seem like the present high school playoff system in Alabama is up to par, either.

This week kicks off the five-week blitz for schools within the Alabama High School Athletic Association. Six state champions will be crowned out of 192 teams that have qualified for the playoffs.

Sure any team has a shot to advance to the state title game, but its highly unlikely that we'll see any of the 15 teams that are sporting losing records advance beyond the first round.

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As a matter of fact there are almost as many teams with losing records in the playoffs as there are unbeaten teams.

Something is terribly wrong with that statement.

Before the AHSAA went to the region format, each class had a number of areas that had between four to five teams in each area. The playoff format was simple. Each area champion and runner-up would advance to the playoffs.

It seemed like a good formula, but the same problem we have this week was all too common. Teams with records worse than 3-7 would earn a shot in the playoffs.

So to alleviate that problem, the AHSAA elected to combine areas to form regions. The AHSAA also elected the same playoff format as that of Georgia's which calls for the top four teams in the region advancing to the playoffs.

For the last few years it seems like it has weeded out the poor teams and has rewarded the better teams. But this year may be a good reason to review the playoff format.

Friday there will be 15 teams with losing records participating in the playoffs, and five of those 15 are Class 6A schools.

I don't see how can reward a team that managed just three wins in the season. Some schools didn't really earn the berth in the first place. Selma and Robert E. Lee ended up in the playoffs because Sidney Lanier and Jeff Davis had to forfeit a number of games for playing an ineligible player.

Still the format needs to be revamped.

It's sad that a teams like Mountain Brook (5-4) or Minor (5-5) will advance to the second round of the playoffs, while the loser between Central-Phenix City (7-3) and Carver-Montgomery (9-1) will have their season come to a crashing halt.

There isn't a team with a .500 record or below that would come within two touchdowns of either of those two schools.

And when you look at the scores on Saturday, you'll notice more than half of the results will be blowout victories.

Maybe there are too many teams that qualify for the playoffs.

Maybe the Alabama Independent School Association has the right format. Albeit the AISA has fewer teams, maybe the AHSAA playoffs need to be just three rounds with the region winner and runner-up advancing.

Sure teams like Brantley, which could host the first three rounds of the playoffs, would hate to see the revenue disappear. But we wouldn't see meaningless playoff games with teams that certainly did not deserve to play in the first round.

If ever the playoff system needs an overhaul, this would be it.

Kevin Taylor is sports editor of The Greenville Advocate. Call him at (334) 382-3111 ext. 122 or e-mail