Is a seeded playoff system on the horizon for Kentucky high school football?
As the KHSAA Board of Control looks to the 2019 season, with which will come the next major realignment of teams, it’s possible that seeding the football playoffs will be explored as a potential alternative to the current postseason format, which relies on geography as its primary bracketing method. That discussion occurred as part of an overall talk about postseason play during the football advisory committee’s annual meeting Feb. 21 in Lexington.
The committee, made up of coaches and athletic directors from across the state, comes together each winter to help the KHSAA review its playing rules, suggest possible changes to the current bylaws and spearhead discussion of future scenarios. Five of the 16 members are coaches at Central Kentucky schools of varying sizes: David Buchanan (Mercer County), Craig Foley (Frankfort), Jim McKee (Scott County), Mark Peach (Anderson County) and Chuck Smith (Boyle County). The remaining members are: David Barnes (Caldwell County coach), Kevin Garris (assigning secretary), Rob Detzel (Newport Central Catholic athletic director), Alan Donhoff (St. Xavier athletic director), Tim Green (Kentucky Country Day athletic director), Philip Haywood (Belfry coach), Robbie Lucas (Somerset coach), Kevin Wallace (Bowling Green coach), Jimmie Reed (executive director of the Kentucky Football Coaches Association), Mark Swift (Ashland Blazer athletic director) and Jerry Wyman (Jefferson County athletic director).
A desire to look at seeding in the near future arose after a broader conversation about the playoff system and whether the regular season should be reduced to 10 weeks. Under such a format, only the top two teams from each district would advance to the postseason. The members reached a “near unanimous consensus” that the current system, in which teams can play 10 regular-season games in 11 weeks and the top four teams in each district advance to the postseason, should not be modified in that manner.
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But seeding could be on the table.
“It was discussed and it’s something that I think (Commissioner Julian Tackett) will look into in the future,” Smith said. “There were some ideas discussed of how other states do it. All of these are just discussions. Nothing in there gets finalized, it’s gotta go through a process and procedure, but there was some good discussion on that.”
The meeting minutes make reference to “an impending deal” with MaxPreps.com that could possibly be used in future seeding procedures. KHSAA Communications Director Joe Angolia said that forthcoming agreement will enhance what MaxPreps already offers for Kentucky schools on its site and stressed that there are no concrete plans for any hypothetical seeding criteria that may be used down the road.
Smith said he doesn’t know enough about what a seed-based playoff system would look like yet to offer a final judgment, but he’s intrigued.
“It is something that really struck my interest and something that I would like to know more about,” he said. “How could we? What would be the criteria used in seeding? All of those things really struck my interest.”
▪ One request of the committee that might go into effect this fall is the use of a 40-second playing clock. Kentucky high schools currently use a 25-second clock, but 40 seconds is the standard used in the college game. KHSAA staff will soon determine the costs associated with implementation and distribute that information to member schools.
Currently, officials have to signal the start of the play clock after marking the ball ready for play; with a 40-second clock, the ball will be ready upon placement and officials will not signal the start of a play. Texas in 2014 became the first state to adopt a 40-second clock for the high school game.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Smith said. “ … It makes the game run smoother and it takes out of the hands of the officials the ability to personally determine the flow of the game. Some officials will get up there and spot it in a hurry cause they’re jumping around, and other officials will not be in a such a big hurry to get up there and spot the ball. This is just kind of automatic.”
▪ Smith brought forth a proposal that would allow teams to conduct a modified scrimmage on the first contact weekend of the season. Currently, teams that play games in Week Zero (the first week of the season) are not allowed to conduct more than one scrimmage before their season starts. Smith’s idea — which he called a “joint-team activity,” or JTA — would not create an additional scrimmage for teams, but enable teams to conduct a scrimmage-like activity without Level 4 contact (“live action”). Athletic directors on the committee will work with Smith and Tackett to draft an official proposal to be voted on at the 2017 annual KHSAA meeting for adoption beginning in the 2018 season.
“I was looking for a safe, progressive way to get ready for the first scrimmage,” Smith said. “ … It’s more of a controlled type of workout with another team.”