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High school playoff system to change

Friday, April 8, 2011

New format will begin in fall of 2012


JEFFERSON CITY -- The Missouri high school football playoffs will undergo a major change in the fall of 2012.

The Missouri State High School Activities Association decided Saturday that one regular season game will be eliminated and a single-elimination tournament will start in the 10th week.

Currently, the top two or three teams from each district advance to the playoffs after a 10-game regular season that closes with three district games.

Under the new system, champions of eight-team district tournaments advance to the quarterfinals. Classes 1-4 and 6 will go into the playoffs. But Class 5 may award byes in some districts because of its large size.

Association spokesman Jason West told The Springfield News-Leader Wednesday that the new system makes football like other sports, and allows teams to schedule for multiple years.

"I'm kind of torn," NMCC head coach Arlen Pixley said. "I like the new playoff really and if you're a better team you'll like it. But if your a school that's struggled in district play in the past you're not going to like it.

Now your putting eight teams in there and some teams don't have any chance at all."

MSHSAA used research from the football advisory committee, the annual questionnaire for all member schools and from various other sources -- including looking at what has worked in other states -- to come up with the new format. That format was approved in a unanimous vote by the football advisory committee in December and then approved unanimously by the board Saturday.

"I probably am one of the few guys who don't have a lot of strong thoughts for or against," said Sikeston coach Kent Gibbs. "The negative, as far as I'm concerned, with the new playoff format is we've eliminated the potential for eight football teams to be district champions because of the way they are going to play it out. But in the end I think the bottom line is you are trying to get the best eight teams in your state championship series and I think that was the effort they were trying to make."

The way the new format is designed is to combine two districts into one, eight-team district that will then be seeded depending on a points system used during the teams nine regular season games. The points system that will be used to seed the teams in their districts has not been finalized.

What is being taken into consideration, by the football advisory committee and then by MSHSAA, are points for wins, for losses, for overtime games as well as points for margin of victory and bonus points for playing schools from larger classes.

"I didn't really have a problem with the format prior to the format we're in right now whenever one team came out," said Dexter coach Aaron Pixley. "We're just trying to find the right thing and we're going to try it and hopefully it works out for the better."

The new proposal eliminates the opportunity of one team to lose in districts and still be in the playoffs, something some coaches didn't agree with. It also allows some bigger conferences to play a full conference schedule, something that has not been a problem with the smaller sized conferences in southeast Missouri.

"It's one of those things where your conference becomes more important," NMCC's Pixley said. "There's a big emphasis on conference play. I would have loved to have, say for instance, District 1 and District 2 and make that your conference. Weeks 3-9 can be you're conference games and it can be sorted out in the end. That's probably where this thing is going."

The nine-game regular season will provide more flexibility for schools to schedule, which some view as positive, others as negative. Some coaches are concerned that they will struggle to fill all nine regular-season dates.

"I've been doing it 30 years and there have been several different proposals and it doesn't seem like everybody is pleased," Gibbs said. "The bottom line is it is going to be more difficult for us to schedule games depending on what our conference does. We could end up having open dates on weeks eight and nine which I think will be hard to fill and some open dates earlier which I don't think will be hard to fill, so we will have to see how that goes."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.