Fan-I Playoff system
After Wise defeated Howard 55-6, giving the 4A Howard County school their first loss of the season, the first thought that came my mind was, we need one more game.
When I mentioned to Wise head coach, Delawn Parrish, that I would like see his boys play one more team, he quickly stated “I would like to see us play them too," already knowing that one team was 3A State Champion, Damascus.
In the state of Maryland during the 2014 season, there was two dominate teams in public school competition, Wise and Damascus. Both school dominated everyone they played, both schools finished the season undefeated, and both schools dropped 55 points the state championship game.
“We saw what Damascus did to Dundalk, so we had a little bit of extra motivation,” coach Parrish said. “You always want to see a tournament of the champions to find out who the real best is.”
Coach Parrish comments is an example of what many have been calling for in the state of Maryland. Because of classification and school population, we won't get the pleasure of seeing the unstoppable force that is Damascus run game against the immovable object that is the Wise defense, a battle we all yearn to see.
The MPSSAA – governing body for Maryland public schools athletics – uses a point system to determine which four teams from each region (North, West, South, East) in each of the four classes (1A, 2A, 3A, 4A) will advance to the state tournament. This system, which is possibly worse than the infamous BCS, has caused the MPSSAA to receive criticism from the local high school media for the lackluster pairings.
Of the 64 total teams that participated in the state tournament, 24 had less than 8 wins. In the 1A class 10 of the 16 teams had less than 8 wins, two of the teams with a record below .500 The 3A class also was somewhat lackluster, 9 of the 16 teams with less than 8 wins this season.
This is a continuous trend each season. In the four state finals this season, three games resulted in 30+ blowouts, Fort Hill defeating Harve De Grace 44-14 to win their third consecutive 1A title.If the committee was to change their system and combine all four regions, it would create a very competitive tournament.
“We could play forever if that was case” Wise cornerback Myles Wolfork said about playing one more game against Damascus. “They're a great team, they put up points just like we put up points but I don't think my team is scared of anybody”
My proposal for a perfect system would be a 16-team tournament that would include the best team from each region in each class. I would eliminate the point system, use overall records, and if necessary, the team with the stronger opponent win percentage would own the tie-breaker.
Each class will have a representative in the Final Four, which will pair the 4A champion vs. 1A champions and the 3A champion vs. 2A champion.
Seeding won't be required, instead, the team with the better record or strength of schedule will have home-field up until the championship game, which will be played at a neutral site.
This system wouldn't allow teams like Broadneck – who upset Old Mill in the Regional Finals – to participate because they would not represent the always competitive Anne Arundel County.
What this system would do is create a more intense regular season, similar to college football, where every game matters. Increasing the importance of strength of schedule would make schools step outside the region and class, and add those big games to the schedule. Imagine the Anne Arundel county 4A region fighting for one playoff spot or Montgomery county fighting for one playoff spot.
A similar system could be used with private schools, combining the MIAA, WCAC, and the IAC.
Most importantly, this will help enhance DMV football brand, which is very underrated throughout the country. Of course this is only in theory and would need more refining – something I am prepared to present if the opportunity comes forth – but this proposal should help spark that conversation that the MPSSAA tries to ignore each season.