Today the TSSAA’s legislative council will meet today to determine the fate of the state organization’s football playoff system in Division I.
Entering the sixth season of the TSSAA’s Z-Plan, it may effectively be killed in a vote as there are three proposals up for debate and vote. The one that wins will go into effect in 2015.
For those that need a refresher, here’s the three proposals:
• Keep things the way they are with the Z-Plan, although it’s not like things have stayed totally the same since 2009. The TSSAA has made tweaks to the plan nearly every year, which is good and bad. One it shows the TSSAA is willing to make necessary changes to make the plan most fair for all, but at the same time, the fact that changes are being made shows the system is flawed to begin with.
• The second proposal is to return to the method used before the Z-Plan when there were five classifications, and the top four teams in each district made the playoffs. Let’s go ahead and be clear about something right now: Going to five classifications means one fewer classification, which means one fewer state champion, which means one fewer set of playoffs complete with people paying for tickets to watch 31 football games. Also, there was a lot of travel involved in the plan, which is why the state went to the Z-Plan in the first place. This one will probably not be picked.
• The third option is a method adopted by the Alabama High School Athletic Association last year that is almost a hybrid of the first two plans. Put the 32 largest schools in the state into a Super 6A class then divide everybody else up into five classifications. Some people wonder about the validity of the 6A playoffs if every team in the state automatically makes the playoffs, but every team in Division II-AA already does that. TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said at the summer meetings of the board of control that most of the 32 were making the playoffs nearly every year anyway.
Childress told The Mufreesboro Daily News Journal last week he plans to recommend the third option as travel should be cut down and six Division I state championships will still be played. So more than likely, we’ll see a big change in Tennessee high school football on Monday.
This is probably the most fair. It’s not fair to teams in Classes 1A, 3A and 5A to play against bigger schools for a chance to make the playoffs. It also doesn’t help successful smaller schools to have the number of total wins be one of the first items on the criteria list for making the playoffs. Coaches in Division II have enjoyed simply needing to win district games to get into the playoffs. Division I would probably enjoy that as well.
Whether there’s a change or not, let’s hope the state sticks with the plan. It seems like there’s some kind of big change every four to six to eight years in how things are done when enough people complain about their teams not having a fair advantage. Constantly changing the rules to help give yourself an extra advantage sounds a lot like the 8-year-old child constantly changing the rules to whatever game they’re playing in the backyard because they’d rather win now instead of trying to get better.
From the outside looking in, championships have more validity when everybody stays within the system instead of constantly changing it. Let’s hope the change stops after this week.
But then there’s still the private-public debate going on. Well it was a good thought anyway.
Brandon Shields is the sports editor of The Jackson Sun. Contact him at 425-9751 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSEditorBrandon.