High school football coaches and fans rejoiced across the state Thursday.
And why not? The biggest perceived bugaboo about the N.C. High School Athletic Association football playoffs was dead at last.
For the last three seasons, teams in the East and West (16 each) were clumped into four eight-team geographical regions called “pods.” The result was that teams from the same conference often played each other in the first or second rounds, and not everyone had an “equal” path to the regional final.
Pods often cut teams’ travel times, but now they’ll exist only in the 1A and 1AA brackets where they saved the most mileage.
The celebrations, on Twitter and elsewhere, lasted less than a few hours before shifting into “now if only the NCHSAA would …” conversations in which new playoff ideas were hatched.
Because that’s what we do when it comes to high school football. We complain. What we don’t do is think about the repercussions of getting our way. It’s how we got here in the first place.
So when you hear someone wanting a change to the football playoffs, proceed with caution.
The pod system was instituted to answer the previous No. 1 gripe – that travel for the football playoffs was too much.
The NCHSAA addressed that need, yet the pods only grew more unpopular every year. And so the NCHSAA got bashed for three years for fixing a problem that was brought before it.
But three years ago, no one thought about what would happen when travel was reduced. We found out soon enough.
Now we’re back to life before the pods, which means the insatiable need to nitpick will revert to old arguments. The main one: “There are too many teams!”
Mind you, there are 64 teams from each classification that make the postseason, and they’re divided into two separate 32-team brackets based on school size. It was sparked by – what else? – widespread criticism.
Too many seven- or eight-win teams were getting left out. That made folks complain. And the NCHSAA answered those complaints. Notice a trend here?
Now, maybe you’ll say that 64 teams per classification (there are about 99 teams per class) is the equivalent of “everybody gets a trophy.” Or maybe you think a good team being left out is OK – it teaches kids that life isn’t fair.
To that, I’ll remind you that a playoff berth does not a trophy make, and teens have lots of life left to learn about its unfairness, if they’re somehow not aware of it.
If you disagree, that’s fine. But map things out before howling in protest, so that you know all the ramifications – good and bad.
It’s OK to criticize the NCHSAA. I’ve used this space to do so several times. But enough with the grief over the football playoffs. Get informed, pick a side and then stay on it.
Especially if you get your way.
Blake: 919-460-2606 or twitter.com/JMBpreps