We have to fix our playoff system in Louisiana
Let me say out front that I’m one of the few people who actually likes the split in Louisiana high school athletics.
I know, I know, I know. You’ve just thrown a tomato at my car. I know, I know, I know. You’re now planning to use this paper to cover your table for a crawfish boil.
I’m aware that my opinion is unpopular, but sometimes, you have to dare to be different and accept being a vocal minority to enact change.
Just hear me out.
Just look at the sports that don’t have it. They’re dominated and overrun by private schools that can pool players from anywhere they want to.
Public schools don’t have that luxury, so I agree that we need an apples-to-apples system, as opposed to the old apples-to-oranges system we had before.
I covered the volleyball state playoffs this past week, and all of the brackets were dominated by private school teams. Those coaches and student-athletes would LOVE a split, and one of my biggest gripes about the format is that it’s too selective. It’s enacted for just some sports, but not others — although the problem is universal.
But having said all of those things, even I can admit — goodness, we surely can also do better than what we’re doing right now when it comes to football.
The Louisiana High School Athletic Association football playoffs are a big of a mess, and just about everyone around the state agrees.
One of two things needs to happen.
The ideal solution would be to cut down on the size of the brackets and the number of postseason participants.
The public school brackets currently have 32 teams, which creates a situation where teams with just 2 or 3 wins make postseason. Those teams then get seeded poorly and often have to pay tons of money to greyhound across the state to go get clobbered in what is mostly a non-competitive first-round game.
I say we cut the public school brackets from 32 to 24. Give byes to the top seeds and let the last handful of teams play play-in games to earn their way into the main, 16-team bracket.
This way, those last few teams to get in would have chances to both host games and also compete in games. This way, the higher-seeded teams would get rewarded for their excellent play with a bye week to lick wounds and recover from injuries.
I think that would be a more exciting, more competitive product.
On the private school side of things, I think the brackets need to shrink, too. It’s completely insane that teams are automatically in the playoffs — just sheerly by existing. That’s not fair, and it’s not in the spirit of high school athletics, so I think there should be efforts to fix it.
Of course, those who disagree with me would say that having so many playoff teams isn’t a problem, because this is high school athletics, and the opportunity to compete is never bad for budding teenagers.
OK, to those, I have a solution, as well.
Let’s break up the state into regions, then have a neutral site tournament of champions in each class.
There is absolutely no reason that South Lafourche should have to drive to Neville to play a first-round game. That’s a 6-hour trip.
That trip cost the Tarpons big money. Moving 50-60 kids across the state is not cheap. You have to bus them, feed them, haul equipment — the full nine yards.
Central Lafourche had the same dilemma on Friday. They had to bus from Mathews to Monroe. That’s a trip that just shouldn’t be happening for a first-round game.
A theory that several coaches (and myself, as well) support is to break the state into four regions — north, south, east and west, and have postseason brackets within each region.
From there, the four teams left standing in each class in each region would meet at neutral sites to decide the state championships.
To me, that just makes much more sense. And I also think the intrigue of having the “tournament of champions” at the end of the year would be fun, too.
Regardless, we all agree that the current system has become a bit stale.
We can and must do better — and literally everyone agrees.
So let’s fix it!