By Michael Kinney
Every time you think 2020 can’t get any stranger, it somehow finds a way to up the ante.
The latest developments saw the OSSAA (Oklahoma Secondary Schools Athletic Association) making unprecedented moves concerning prep football. They include letting every single team in Oklahoma compete in the 2020 postseason.
“This is a once in a lifetime scenario, I hope,” OSSAA associate Director Mike Whaley said. “We’re planning on doing this one time and one time only.”
Whaley says the decision to open the 2020 playoff to every team in every classification was brought about due to the loss of district games to COVID-19.
“The cancellations of multiple games during the regular season has caused a concern regarding the accuracy of seedings of each district entering the playoff series,” Whaley said. “Schools needing to make up multiple canceled contests and the concerns from member schools regarding playing multiple contests in a relatively short time frame was also a factor to considering modifying the current OSSAA plan.”
The OSSAA says that adding a play-in round for all schools that want to be in the postseason will address possible inaccuracies in the seeding process.
Brackets for each classification will be expanded to include all teams. It will have a similar look to college basketball’s March Madness.
The second week of November has been designated as the start of the playoffs with the play-in round. Games will be scheduled on a Friday or Saturday based on the availability of officiating crews. Teams may mutually agree to move the game to Thursday.
The play-in round is designated as Round 1. The higher district seed shall host in Round 1. The district champion shall host in Round 2 if the district champion advances. Determining host teams in all classes for Round 3 shall follow the criteria listed in board policy.
Neutral sites will be used for semifinal rounds and championship games for all 11-man classifications will take play at the University of Central Oklahoma.
According to Whaley, schools may opt-out of the play-in round. If that takes place, their opponent will get an automatic bye into the next round.
Also, if a team wins a postseason game, but then is unable to play in the next round due to CIVID-19 issues, they will be eliminated from the postseason. If that happens, the team that was they just beat will be able to take their place and advance.
If that school chooses not to play, then their opponent will get a bye to the next round.
For the schools that choose not to be in the playoffs, the OSSAA is allowing them to continue their season as well.
“If a school has lost two games to COVID, and the school is not wanting to participate in the playoffs and can find other schools that would like to play a game, they can certainly play that game at their discretion up until the time of their state championship game in their classification,” Whaley said. “Even of those teams were to participate in the playoffs and were eliminated, if they wanted to make up those non-district games or schedule another game, they would be able to do so.”
The OSSAA is asking football coaches to rank the teams in their district starting Oct 23. This includes districts that have not had any cancelations thus far.
The district will then decide whether to use the rankings as the determination on playoff seedings or to use the normal system that has been in place.
Whaley says he understands the hesitancy in allowing football coaches to rank their friends and colleagues. But it’s something that is done in other sports and the only move they could make at this point.
“One of the issues that all of our coaches have in all of our sports has to do with the integrity of the rankings,” Whaley said. “I can tell you that has been a concern of our staff, it’s been a concern of the coaches association since we’ve been doing rankings. We have traditionally not used rankings in football playoff scenarios. Our concern here was that we would end up with districts that were missing games and the only way to get an overall feel for that district was to ask the coaches to rank them. Could manipulation by coaches? I guess it could. But as we say here in the office, the poll is only as good as the pollsters.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider