The TSSAA’s football playoff plan known as the Z-Plan didn’t die on Monday, but it did receive a death sentence as Halloween night, the Friday of Week 10, will be the last time high school football fans will deal with it, whether you were a fan of it or not.
The new plan – call it a hybrid or Super 6A or whatever you want to call it – will be in effect in 2015, and it will more than likely be the main talking point for football fans this time a year from now.
Coaches in West Tennessee had a mixed reaction to it.
Crockett County head coach Kevin Ward likes the fact that district play by itself determines who makes the playoffs.
But there are differing opinions out there. One of them comes from the town of Dyer and Gibson County head coach Morgan Cruce.
“It has a danger of watering down the playoffs,” Cruce said. “With the Z-Plan, at least the teams that made it won enough games to get there.
“But if it’s totally dependent on district rankings, then a team that is 1-9 or 2-8 or even 0-10 can get into the playoffs. That’s probably not the best for the playoffs.”
Cruce has a point. One of the problems with the old method before the Z-Plan (“old method” and “old way we used to do it” is the only terms I’ve ever heard to signify the prior playoff plan) was the different sizes of regions. There would be some districts with seven or eight teams and others with five or six, and if the top four teams get in the playoffs, that meant some teams simply needed to win the right two games while another team had to win the right four.
TSSAA assistant executive director Matthew Gillespie clarified via text message Monday afternoon the districts proposed earlier this summer were simply based on last year’s enrollment numbers and will be officially drawn in November. Hopefully between now and then, the organization – whether it’s the staff or board of control or whomever – will decide to keep the regions the same size statewide. Travel may be a concern, but it will be no matter what so it might as well be messed up for somebody in the name of equal and fair competition.
Is it right for Camden to be in the same region with Loretto? It’s not the best option because that’s a road trip where you can’t get from Point A to Point B without going through Points C and D first. But if the lines wound up being drawn to where it was best for the state then so be it.
Hardin County is in the same district now with Dyer County, Brighton and Munford. They were in the same district with those teams plus Henry County.
There are three other options we could do to fix it and make it the most fair for everybody.
The first option is to tell everybody to be evenly dispersed so that all the schools of similar size are close together to eliminate travel for district play.
Make football like every other sport in the state and let everybody go to the postseason with district tournaments then regions then sectionals and then a state tournament.
Or we make Tennessee football like Kentucky basketball and have one big division no matter the size and have one champion.
But I hope we do none of those because we have a system now, and I hope the TSSAA commits to it for the long haul instead of changing every time a coach or administrator complains about it not being fair.
Brandon Shields is the sports editor of The Jackson Sun. Contact him at 425-9751 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JSEditorBrandon.