Starting in 2020, football will see a change in how teams make the postseason. No longer will six wins guarantee a playoff spot.

Starting in 2020, football will see a change in how teams make the postseason. No longer will six wins guarantee a playoff spot.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Big changes approved for some high school sports

By: Mark Vest | C&G Newspapers | Published May 17, 2019

 Starting in the 2019-20 academic year, the districts for boys and girls basketball and soccer will now have the top two teams seeded on opposite sides of the bracket. Previously, brackets were a random draw.

Starting in the 2019-20 academic year, the districts for boys and girls basketball and soccer will now have the top two teams seeded on opposite sides of the bracket. Previously, brackets were a random draw.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

METRO DETROIT — The Michigan High School Athletic Association recently approved some major changes to the sports of football, basketball and soccer.

Football
Beginning in 2020, six wins in the regular season will no longer automatically qualify teams for the playoffs. Instead, 32 teams from eight different divisions will be selected at the end of the regular season based on playoff-point average.

One of the intentions of the change is to reward the teams that play tougher schedules. With the revised system, more points will be awarded for beating teams from larger divisions.

According to the MHSAA, the football committee “proposed these changes believing the bonus points received for a ‘good loss’ — combined with the elimination of automatic qualifiers — will be enough incentive for teams to schedule more successful opponents, easing the annual difficulty in football scheduling and taking away arguably the most cited reason for the breakup of leagues and conferences.”

Basketball and soccer
Beginning in the 2019-20 school year, boys and girls basketball and soccer will have a seeding process in place that ensures that the top two teams in every district don’t play each other before the district championship game.

The top two seeded teams will be selected via a Michigan Power Ratings computer formula and will be placed on opposite sides of the district bracket. Previously, district brackets were based on a random draw.

Following are the thoughts from local coaches on the new changes.

Jim Sparks, Clawson High football
“Coaches in our state are very clever and have learned how to manipulate their schedules to get to the magical six-win total,” Sparks said. “The byproduct of this manipulation is that many schools shy away from scheduling teams that are talented because they can’t afford to lose a game and miss the playoffs.”

Sparks noted that some of the top programs in the state would often have to schedule teams from outside the state or even teams from Canada to fill their slates.

“I think this is a great step in a new direction, and the leadership of the (Michigan High School Football Coaches Association) and the MHSAA should be applauded for recognizing a problem and being bold enough to develop a strategy to address it,” he said.

 

Tim Brandon, Grosse Pointe South football
Brandon supports the change, but sees a potential issue with the division of schools based on size.

“The one thing I wish they’d do is split (Division 1) in half. There is a 1,500-student difference between the largest school in D-1 and the smallest,” Brandon said. “That same number is the difference between D-2 and D-8. There is no way a school of 1,500 should play a school of 3,000 in the playoffs.”

 

Mike Giannone, Warren De La Salle football
Giannone, with four state championships on his résumé, believes the change will help to rekindle some rivalries that have been lost due to the six-win system. Giannone, formerly the coach at Macomb Dakota, said the change allows larger schools to schedule matchups without worrying if a loss will hurt their playoff chances.

“I feel, and have always felt, that the more you can play schools in your area, the more excitement will be generated among both schools,” he said. “This is part of what high school athletics is about.”

 

Scott Merchant, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley football
Merchant helped lead his team to the D-1 state title last season. He approves of the change.

“The goal of the regular season for most sports is to try to play as tough a schedule as possible to get you better and prepare you for the playoffs,” he said. “In football, that didn’t seem to be the case. Seemed everybody was trying to figure out how they could get six wins to get in, which made scheduling really difficult.”

 

Terrance Porter, Farmington High boys basketball
“I believe it is a step in the right direction,” he said. “Seeding the top two teams shows that you are being rewarded for having a good regular season and makes the regular season more meaningful.”

 

Jason Clark, West Bloomfield High boys and girls soccer
“As far as seeding goes, if there is a fair way to do it, then it might work,” he said. “However, to be honest, most coaches don’t consistently report scores. Unless this is forced, then the seeding will not be accurate.”

 

Tom McDonald, Utica High girls basketball
“I don’t see the change as making that big of a difference, because the districts in our area are usually very balanced with multiple teams in the district capable of winning. So seeding the top two I don’t believe will have that big of an impact.”

 

Jeff Olind, Warren Mott boys basketball
Olind, who led the Marauders to district and regional titles in 2014, said the change to seed the top teams in each district was a long time coming.

“I like the change,” Olind said. “I think basketball catches up to so many other MHSAA sports that have been seeding for years. I think it will also lead to some great district final games in the future.”

Sports Writers Jason Carmel Davis, Zachary Manning and Jacob Herbert contributed to this report.