I'm admittedly a high school sports junky. Don't get me wrong, the first question when I meet someone is not "where did you go to high school?" But I do look forward to this time of year, when the high school sports get back under way.
However, every year I'm mystified by the Missouri State High School Activities Association's approach to districts, classifications and the playoff system in football.
All you need to do is look at Class 6. There's a total of 32 teams in the state at that level. 32! That means if you're state champ, you beat a few more teams than what's in your fantasy football league. I'm not trying to knock the teams that get to the Dome. But wouldn't it be more rewarding to know you won more than two games to get there?
The state of Illinois has had an effective playoff system for years, and it makes sense.
Teams with 9, 8, 7, and 6 wins will always qualify for the playoffs. Teams with 5 wins are "on the bubble," and the tie is broken by the number of playoff points (the combined wins of all opponents). So therefore, if you do well during the season, you're rewarded for it.
Missouri's system is based on district games, or the final three games on the schedule.
Now, MSHSAA did change their system for the upcoming school year. Instead of only one team from each district, there now will be two. However, this will not prevent a sub-500 team from making the playoffs. It just will assure the deserving team that got upset by them gets in. Again, no logic in this move. Now you have more teams, but an even more diluted field in each class. Plus, if it's a district that has a lot of below-par schools, you have two mediocre teams in the mix.
Illinois' has it right. Playoff bids are given to teams based on their body of work, and not a 'what-have-you-done-for-me-lately' approach. There are teams with 5-4 records that make the Illinois playoffs, but it's because they had a tough schedule. In otherwords, if they didn't have such a tough schedule, they'd probably be a 7 or 8-win team. Translation: good playoff opponent.
It would be great to see Missouri adopt a similar playoff system to Illinois, and eliminate two classes. Class 6 should be combined with Class 5. Also, Class 1 and 2 could be combined. I've covered all six games at the Dome for the last five years. There's nothing different about the Class 1 and 2 title games. They both feature undersized players that run the ball like a 1930's-style college team. Let's trim the fat and make that one game.
The playoffs and championship games are supposed to showcase the best of the best. MSHSAA needs to make much-needed changes to improve the overall product. Otherwise they're just watered-down games on a big stage.