Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 18, 2013

Mike Eckert: Playoff change would be good for spectators


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---- — Talk of the proposed changes to the football playoff system is starting to circulate across the state.

After we ran an in-depth story on Saturday, other media outlets followed suit. The proposed change boils down to divisions split at the beginning of the season as opposed to at the end, a change in how playoff points are earned, bonus points for strength of schedule, and seven wins to guarantee a berth instead of six.

My thoughts on the change — bring it on. If it makes for a better product on the field, I'm all for it.

I understand that the proposed system could bring on a whole new set of problems.

If implemented, there will be disappointment when teams miss out with a 6-3 record. And what happens to the teams in the middle of the pack? I can see where the strength of schedule element benefits playing the good teams, and with seven wins needed to guarantee a spot in the postseason, playing a struggling program has its benefits. But there are plenty of schools that don't fit into either category.

That said, from my perspective, the good far outweighs the bad.

Understand, that I don't have ties to either side of the issue. My only interest is as a sports writer, who would rather cover compelling games as opposed to one-sided blowouts.

Over the years, I've seen far too many lopsided football games. You've seen them too. The games where the second half starts with a running clock and the starters on the bench don't benefit anybody. The winning team doesn't gain much, the losing team walks away demoralized, and unless you're a parent of one of the bench players who suddenly got all kinds of action, it's bad for the spectators too.

The new proposal won't clean up the blowouts entirely, but anything to improve things is a win in my book. Especially in the playoffs.

Too often, the first round gives way to lopsided outcomes. What's worse is when a team has to travel halfway across the state for a ceremonial beatdown.

Remember the epic TC Central vs. Bay City Western showdown last fall at Thirlby Field? The Trojans won 48-47 in double overtime in a meeting of two evenly-matched opponents. It was one of those legendary games people will talk about for years to come.

Then, there's the flip side. Last year, 41 pre-district — or first round — games were decided by more than 30 points. More than half of the 128 games across the eight divisions were won by 20 or more points.

Think people are talking about those games? Not likely.

I don't have to worry about the hassles of scheduling football games, and I don't have to worry about winning enough football games to qualify for the playoffs. So I realize there could be issues that don't affect me.

But I'm hoping the MHSAA Representative Council adopts the proposed change to the football playoffs when it meets in May.

Better the product, better for everybody.