Playoff system is better, but still not the best

October 31, 2004|by MARK KELLER

The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association took a step in the right direction last year when it voted to expand the football playoffs.

The move doubled the number of teams - from 8 to 16 per class - and extended the season by one week.

As I said, definitely a step in the right direction, but not completely.

I'm still of the opinion that Maryland should follow the lead of West Virginia and put the top 16 teams in each class, based on the same points system that is now used, onto a 16-team bracket instead of playing a regional tournament first.

One area team - Middletown, Walkersville or South Hagerstown - is going to make the Class 2A West playoffs with a 6-4 record, while a team in the North region - either City College or Edmondson - will likely not make the playoffs despite significantly higher point totals.


Certainly Tim Ambrose, Hal Grau and Greg Kellick - the coaches of the three local teams - aren't going to apologize if they are the team to make it to Week 11, nor should they. They're going to make it in under the rules of the current system.

For Ambrose and Grau, perhaps their qualifying for the postseason would be a kind of justice.

From 1984-94, Ambrose coached four Middletown teams that finished 8-2 but failed to qualify for the playoffs.

Grau was the coach of a 10-0 Catoctin team in 1983 that incredibly did not make the playoffs. That injustice helped push through a first round of playoff expansion in 1985.

Prior to Friday's games, South Hagerstown held the fourth and final spot in the 2A West playoffs, but the Rebels were rated 22nd overall in their classification.

City College, meanwhile, was rated 10th overall, but fifth in the North region.

The gap will likely close this week as both South and City lost and Middletown and Walkersville won, but that gap illustrates what could happen under the current system.

Officials will point to a bylaw in the MPSSAA handbook that says "a state tournament shall evolve from district/regional tournaments."

I'm guessing such bylaws are not written in stone and could be brought up for interpretation.

The state Board of Control recommended the football playoff expansion. I would think that group could recommend a change of the bylaws.

There would be additional travel involved, but it would be no more travel than West Virginia teams currently do come playoff time.

In my mind, that would be a small price to pay for getting the system right.

Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. His column appears every Sunday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2332, or by e-mail at

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