Banner Sports Writer
With so many complaints about teams with losing records making the playoffs, the TSSAA changes its football format three years ago. Now they may change it back.
During the Board of Control meetings this week, several options to revamp the current system, which has had flaws and complaints as well, were discussed but two options came to the forefront — leaving things the way they are or reverting back to the previous format. A decision to table a final vote until the July 12 meeting was agreed upon to give the board an opportunity to speak with their schools to determine which would be favored.
Sequatchie County principal Tommy Layne, the representative for the southeast Tennessee area, will hold a meeting Monday at Red Bank High School to discuss the options with the area adminstrators and coaches.
While the board will likely keep the current classification systems for every sport except football, and the decision for the state's top revenue-producing sport certainly won’t please everybody. Whichever classification plan is accepted, it will be in effect for the 2013-17 school years.
The current “Z-plan” has three classes for football’s regular season, then expands to six for the playoffs. The advantage is playing in regular season districts with teams that are much closer than under the old region setup, allowing for less travel expenses and better “gates.” Better attendance at games, translates into more money for the home team’s athletic programs.
The old five classification plan used for the 15 years prior to the change in 2009, places teams in “regions” that could have teams competing against schools that more than 100 miles apart.
“For me the biggest thing is the better atmosphere on Friday nights,” declared five-year Bradley Central head coaching veteran Damon Floyd. “Being able to play teams where we know the coaches and the players know each other, as well as the fans, is much more exciting than playing teams that are two hours away.”
“We have some great rivalries in this area and if we go back to the old system, we may not get to play some of those games,” the Bear mentor added. “There are going to be pluses and minuses in any system, but to me to be able to keep our regular season games exciting for our fans is important.”
Based on the current enrollement numbers, should the board vote to revert to the old system, Bradley Central and Walker Valley would be placed in Class 5A, Region 3 along with current fellow District 5-AAA members McMinn County and Soddy-Daisy, plus four schools — Coffee County, Lincoln County, Warren County and Franklin County — that are west of Monteagle Mountain and in the Central Time Zone.
The other three current District 5-AAA squads — Cleveland High, Rhea County and Ooltewah — would be in Class 4A, Region 4 along with East Hamilton, Chattanooga Central, Sequoyah and White County.
“Not only are you talking about increased expenses because of having four teams that far away, but our fans get excited when we play longtime rivals like Cleveland, Ooltewah and Rhea County,” expressed Floyd. “I don’t know if they will travel to the games or have the same enthusiam for games with teams from that far away.”
In the years previous to the current system, Bradley was in a region with teams from Maryville, Oak Ridge and Knoxville as well as others in the midsection of East Tennessee.
While Floyd prefers for the setup to stay the same, new Walker Valley head coach Glen Ryan sees a benefit in reurning to the region setup.
“I have mixed feelings,” proclaimed Ryan, who was the head coach at Soddy-Daisy under the old format. “I like a true classifaction, where you play in a region with teams that will be making the same playoffs as you, instead of a district where we would play several teams that are going to be separated into a different class come the playoffs.”
“This (the proposed new region) could be a very interesting region,” he added. “I think its good to shake things up and play teams you don’t normally play.”
Both coaches expressed the concern that come playoff time, the new proposed region would be squaring off against the Murfreesboro region — Riverdale, Blackman, Oakland and Siegel, plus Cookeville, La Vergne, Smyrna and Lebanon.
Reverting to the old five-class system would mean the top four teams in each region would advance to the playoffs, under which one of the biggest complaints was the large number of teams that made the post-season with losing records. “It is unfair that some regions have only five teams in them while others have eight,” Ryan remarked. “It would nice if they could find a way to balance all the regions out.”
The main knock coaches have against the current playoff system is not knowing who they are going to be facing in the opening round of the playoffs until the day after the final regular season game is played.
Currently the district winners and runnerups automatically advance to the playoffs but the rest of the 32-team playoff brackets (24 in 1A and 2A) are made up of “wildcard” teams, determined by a 16-point criteria.
Since the “Z-plan” then divides the state into four, eight-team geographical regions based on what teams have qualified, the pairings and sites for the opening round playoff games can’t be determined until after all regular season games are played.
“It makes for a hectic day (the selection Saturday), trying to find out who you are playing and where, plus trying to make contact to exchange game films, but it is the same for everybody,” Floyd remarked. “I don’t know how much planning you can do ahead of time by knowing who you are going to face in the playoffs while you still have regular season games to play.”
"If it were just up to me, I would vote to keep things as they are," board member Layne recently told a Chattanooga newspaper. "From a principal's standpoint, there is less travel involved for the schools right now. The biggest drawback is that the football coaches don't know who they play in the playoffs until after the last week of the season, and they don't like that."
Should the Board keep the staus quo, District 5-AAA may be adding another school in all sports, depending on which side of the cutoff number East Hamilton’s enrollment number falls.
While a decision on which classification system to us will be made this summer, schools won’t officially be placed in their district or regions for 2013-17 seasons until the fall enrollment numbers are submitted for a November meeting.
Along with the football situation the board also delayed a decision on whether or not to divide the state traditional wreslting tournament into an AAA and a A-AA format. Currently at the state traditional tournament, all individuals,regardless of the size of the school, are put in the same class by weight. The state duals tournament is divided into AAA and A-AA already.
Should the TSSAA Board of Control chose to revert to the five-class football system for the 2013-16 seasons, based on current enrollments (final classification will be determined by school enrollent on the 20th day of classes this fall), the 2013-16 regions area teams would play in and the region they would be pitted against in the playoffs are as follows:
Region 3: Copper Basin, Grace Baptist, Huntland, Lookout Valley, Moore County, South Pittsburg, Whitwell
Region 4: Clay County, Friendship, Gordonsville, Middle Tennessee Christian, Monterey, Pickett County, Red Boiling Springs, Trousdale County, Watertown
Region 3: Bledsoe County, Boyd-Buchanan, Brainerd, Howard, Marion County, Meigs County, Polk County, Silverdale Baptist, Tyner
Region 4: Cannon County, Jackson County, Smith County, Upperman, Westmoreland, York
Region 3: Christian Academy of Knoxville, Kingston, Loudon, McMinn Central, Scott
Region 4: Chattanooga Christian, East Ridge, Grundy County, Hixson, Notre Dame, Red Bank, Sequatchie County, Signal Mountain
Region 3: Anderson County, Campbell County, Clinton, Cumberland County, Lenoir City, Oak Ridge, Stone Memorial
Region 4: Chattanooga Central, Cleveland, East Hamilton, Ooltewah, Rhea County, Sequoyah, White County
Region 3: Bradley Central, Coffee County, Franklin County, Lincoln County, McMinn County, Soddy-Daisy, Walker Valley, Warren County
Region 4: Blackman, Cookeville, La Vergne, Lebanon, Oakland, Riverdale, Siegel, Smyrna