, Gloucester, MA

November 29, 2012

Playoff overhaul the right move for Mass. football

By Nick Curcuru
Sports Editor

---- — The new MIAA playoff system, taking shape in 2013, has been a hot debate topic over the weeks, and with the MIAA Super Bowls kicking off on Saturday it’s time to debate whether or not this is the right move for Massachusetts high school football.

Based on the system that’s in place now, this is absolutely the right direction for the state to move in.

Here’s how it breaks down. Teams are split up into sections based on enrollment (Gloucester in Division 3 Northeast, Manchester Essex in Division 5 Northeast) with eight teams in each section qualifying for the playoffs, which will start after week seven. Those eight teams will battle throughout the playoffs and the winners of each section (four in each division) will move on to the state semis followed by the Super Bowl. There will be six state champions statewide compared to 19 in the current format.

The new system may take a little getting used to but one thing is for sure, the system in place at the moment is broken and a change was needed. The fact that 19 teams can call themselves state champions is borderline laughable.

The current system being broken is due to one thing; virtually every conference needing to split into two for an extra playoff berth. In 2001, when the playoff format took shape, no conferences were split into large and small and every regular season game had meaning. Fast forward to 2012 and the splitting of conferences has rendered the first 5-6 weeks of the regular season meaningless.

With this new format every game will have significance as teams are ranked on a point based system. Beat a team in your division, you get 10 points; beat a team up a division, get 12 points; and beat a team down a division to get eight points. Every win counts as does every loss, which should make for some exciting football in weeks five, six and seven next fall.

Some of the knocks against the new system I’ve heard is that “everyone gets a trophy” and there are too many playoff teams. It is a fact that there are way more teams qualifying for the postseason, but not “everyone gets a trophy.” In fact, the number of trophies handed out at season’s end will be one-third the number of trophies given out in 2012.

Another plus is the extended playoff format. Sure, a few pretenders will qualify, but those teams will be weeded out after a round. To win the state championship, teams will have to win five straight playoff games, with each round getting increasingly more difficult.

Whoever comes out of each division as its Super Bowl champion will have certainly earned it, running a five game gauntlet against the best the division has to offer. On top of that, every team is of similar enrollment come playoff time.

There will also be no team with a sub .500 record winning a Super Bowl as it is an impossibility. No offense to the 2010 Beverly team, who earned that Super Bowl win with a 5-6 regular season record. The Panthers were playing by the rules and proved beyond a doubt to be the best team in its division that season.

Every game having significant meaning, extended playoffs, less Super Bowl champs and a tougher road to the Super Bowl along with more big games means that you can count me in as a supporter of the state’s new high school football format.