On Wednesday, the IIAAA approved the Indiana Football Coaches Association's new playoff proposal by a 24-0 vote. The proposal was co-chaired by Brownstown Central head coach Reed May and Brebeuf Jesuit coach Ryan Gallogly.
The initial proposal included a socio-economic factor which would drop a school one class if a certain number of students were on free or reduced lunch programs. According to sources, this was dropped before the vote Wednesday.
Two of the three amendments approved are things that have been talked about for the last eight years (at least). The addition of a sixth class and seeding the sectionals.
The proposal calls for the top two teams in each sectional to be placed in separate brackets and the rest of the sectional filled in with a blind draw. This is a great move and benefits everyone involved. Seeding each sectional 1-8 would never get approved. The tournament in Indiana really is a second season, in that with a good draw, a team that didn't have a good regular season still has a shot at the state finals. The teams that didn't play well in weeks 1-9 are hoping to draw another team that struggled instead of playing the top team in the bracket in the first round.
This sets up a good situation for all schools in the sectional. If the two best teams are playing in the last game, there is a greater chance that some of the eliminated teams would boost the attendance. All eight schools in the sectional split the total ticket sales of all the games in the sectional, so the more people that go to each game, the more money each school gets, even those eliminated in the first game.
The sixth class I am pretty neutral on. In talking with IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox, once there were 321 football playing schools in Indiana, then something would need to be done. However, the sixth class will help alleviate the huge gap in enrollment from the top of 5A to the bottom. Based on the current enrollments, Ben Davis is at the top of 5A (4,892) and Fort Wayne Wayne is at the bottom of 5A with 1,582 students. The Giants are just over three times the size of Wayne. Using the same enrollment figures, the difference from Ben Davis down to Columbus North (bottom school in 6A) is 2,858 instead of 3,310 as it is now. The difference in enrollment in 5A would be only 434.
As far as the tradition factor, I'm not sold on it. The way it is set up now, if a team has accumulated a certain number of points by winning state, semistate, regional, or sectionals, you get moved up a class for two years. The example I thought of against it would be my alma mater, Lowell. The Red Devils had a great four year run from 2005 through 2009, going 57-15 and advancing to the 4A championship three times. However, before the 2009 season, Lowell would have been moved up to 5A (had this been in place) since they would have accumulated 11 points on the tradition factor.
I don't think it's fair that a previous classes success should put a team up a class for two years. What if it's just one really incredible class? Looking back at the 2009 Lowell team, they probably could have held their own in the 5A sectional, but the 2010 team was 6-4 after graduating Northwest Indiana's all-time leading rusher Brandon Grubbe and losing head coach Kirk Kennedy to Bloomington South.
Kankakee Valley head coach Brad Stewart, who was Lowell's defensive coordinator during that run said, "While it would have hurt us in Lowell for two years, it helps against the dominant schools."
The last I heard, this was an "all-or-nothing" proposal, meaning all three changes will be voted on as one. It's almost like earmarking in congress. If you put something on the bill for everyone, you'll get the needed support. You don't like the tradition factor? Well, what if we seed the top two in each sectional? Or, what if we gave those "mega-schools" their own tournament?
The next step will be in March when the IHSAA board votes on it in March and if approved, would likely be in place for the 2013 tournament.