, Gloucester, MA


November 29, 2012

Enjoy it while it lasts, new playoff football system doesn't cut it

For anybody planning to take in any of Saturday’s high school Super Bowls, enjoy it.

Because after Saturday, local playoffs may never be the same.

In October, the MIAA’s Football Committee laid out a new playoff format for Massachusetts high school football, a proposal that passed and will be implemented as part of a four-year cycle starting next season.

As things stand now, each conference champion earns a playoff berth, four in each division (a format Gloucester and Manchester Essex fans alike can remember over recent years).

You play Thanksgiving, you play the semifinals the following Tuesday, then the Super Bowl that Saturday.

How’s the old saying go? If it’s not broken, don’t fix it?

The MIAA should take a second to think about that.

Under the new format, the world gets thrown upside-down. Schools are broken into six divisions based on enrollment and competitive balance, and after seven regular-season weeks, the playoffs begin.

Let me repeat: After seven weeks, the playoffs start.

The top two seeds from each conference will automatically qualify for the new state-wide playoffs, and the remaining playoff slots will be filled by wild card teams determined by a power rating system (a BCS-like nightmare in the making).

When the playoffs kick off in Week 8, 160 teams will be taking the field, 55 percent of the state’s programs and more than double the number of teams that played in Tuesday’s respective semifinals.

And after a five-week playoff -- with a Thanksgiving Day game rendered largely useless now thrown right there between the final two rounds -- six state champions will be crowned at Gillette Stadium.

Now, sure, the current system isn’t perfect, and this new format does address some of the problems.

For instance, something doesn’t sit right with me that St. John’s Prep and Brockton will be playing for the Division 1 crown at Bentley University. Under the new format, all state championships would be held at Gillette, which is just downright cool for any high school kid.

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