There’s a staple of high school playoff series in pockets across the nation that is particularly pronounced in Texas: According to bylaws of the governing University Interscholastic League (UIL), when two playoff teams can’t mutually agree on either a one or three-game series, and when they can’t pick a neutral site, a coin flip determines who will play where and for how long.
Now a twist on this tactic has emerged: If the two teams can’t agree, they can pick a pair of surrogate teams competing in the real world, then use an even-odd statistic to determine the result. It sounds odd. It sounds difficult, and, to a degree it is. Yet for at least two coaches, it was a lot more palatable than leaving much of a season’s fate on the outcome of a coin.
As chronicled by The Ticket sportsradio 1310 in Dallas, the recently completed Class 4A state playoff series between Melissa and Sanger had both its site and length determined by the Sunday, May 6 game between the Red Sox and Rangers in Arlington.
Here’s how it all unfolded: Melissa coach Jason Russell wanted a best-of-three series. Sanger coach Steve Ford wanted a one-game series. Neither could agree on a neutral location. So here’s what happened:
The deal: the total number of runs in the game would determine the series length. The total number of hits would determine the location. In both instances if the result was odd, Melissa would get the pick. If it was even Sanger would get it.
As fate would have it, a total of seven runs and 15 hits in the game gave Melissa it’s choice of location and series length. The two teams played a three-game set, in neutral Prosper, which was closer to Melissa than Sanger. And, true to form, Melissa pulled out a 2-1 series victory on the back of a 5-1 victory in Game 1 and 11-5 rout in the winner-take-all Game 3.
If the oddity of using esoteric statistics from live professional sports to determine the fate of a high school playoff appearance sounds familiar, that’s probably because it’s happened recently in the Northeast. In fact, the tiebreaker in a New York state conference championship was determined by the score in an NBA game earlier this spring.
So, is this a trend that’s going to stick? Because there were no financial ramifications, Monday’s move by the Supreme Court to allow for legalized sports gambling (pursuant to state legislative actions) was never going to dictate whether side bets would remain legal. Still, the more they’re used, the more they’ll prove that sometimes exotic bets are worth even more than a major financial windfall.