Coaches react to changes in football playoffs

REED CITY — Coaches have reacted to changes announced last week by the MHSAA to the football playoff qualification system.

The emphasis will go toward strength of schedule and the changes are designed to reward teams that play more successful opponents.

Beginning with the 2020 season, according to an MHSAA statement, eight divisions will be determined before the season, and 32 playoff qualifiers from each division will be selected at the end of the regular season based on playoff-point average – there no longer will be automatic qualification based on win total.

The adjusted playoff points formula will award bonus points for all opponents’ wins, regardless of whether the team beat or lost to those opponents.

Currently bonus points are awarded only if the team defeated an opponent. More points also are awarded for defeating teams from larger divisions.

The MHSAA said 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. This, the MHSAA said, takes away arguably the most cited reason for the breakup of leagues and conferences.

“It eliminates the schools that schedule for six (wins), and places a bigger priority on scheduling up,” former Reed City coach Monty Price, now with Belding, said, citing a positive part of the change, while adding a negative would be: “no real incentive for larger schools to schedule smaller ones, being the biggest school in your conference.”

Regardless of the circumstances, “you still have to win football games,” Price said.

Pine River coach Terry Martin presented his pros and cons.

“I like that the divisions are selected prior to the season like most of the other MHSAA tournaments,” he said. “I think that the northern schools will have the most difficult time making the playoffs under the new format.

We have an abundance of small schools that are separated by a lot of mileage.

Schedules are mostly dictated by geography. The opportunity to schedule larger schools or more successful programs are limited.

“I think the new system will benefit larger schools and more successful programs that have had a difficult time filling their schedule under the old system. Our schedule consists mainly of our Class C conference teams so our opportunities to schedule larger schools to score points are limited.

“Fortunately, the Highland is a very competitive conference with many programs that are successful year in and year out. I’m hoping that our strength of schedule will be enough to still get us into the playoffs on years that we can get to six or seven wins.”

But Martin is still cautious.

“Hopefully the design of this system doesn’t attract schools to move into conferences that allow them to play larger schools or become independent with a more flexible schedule,” he said.

Pine River and other area coaches comment on the new fooftball playoff system.

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Posted by John Raffel

John is a sports reporter with Herald Review as well as the Pioneer and The Lake County Star. He can be reached at (231) 592-8356 or by email at jraffel@pioneergroup.com.

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