Column by Ken Cohen
So I see where Section IX is considering expanding the Class AA football playoffs to include eight of the 10 teams in Class AA. If approved, it will be instituted in 2014 and then most likely rolled out a year later for Class C, which also has 10 teams. That could be beneficial to Sullivan County teams since four of them Liberty, Sullivan West, Fallsburg and Tri-Valley are all in Class C. In fact, if the eight-team format was in place this year, Tri-Valley would have joined Liberty and Sullivan West in the playoffs even with a 4-5 overall record.
I’ve written before how I don’t like the current playoff system there are too few league games and division champions can be crowned with just one or two victories. This new proposal will only make it worse. With eight out of 10 teams qualifying for the playoffs, you are almost guaranteeing that teams with losing records will make the postseason, making the regular season almost meaningless. Washingtonville coach Don Clark admitted that with just four league games now, he feels the regular reason “doesn’t mean a lot.”
Many Section IX coaches, including some committee members, are saying the opposite that an eight-team playoff will ensure good teams don’t get left out. They look at Class AA and see that Division I has four, even five quality teams and only two advance to the playoffs. Division II, on the other hand, is presumably a bit weaker, but also sends two teams to the playoffs. Some coaches feel that all the best teams should be in the playoffs, not just the two qualifiers from each division.
I couldn’t agree more, but having eight teams qualify is not the answer. Realigning the Divisions is a better solution, but I favor just having one Division of 10 teams with a rotating schedule of six league games, where every team plays every other team at least once in a three-year span. You can have four or six teams qualify for the playoffs I prefer four, but wouldn’t have a big problem with six and two teams getting a first-round bye.
I know there are those who think we should reward more of our high school athletes and let more of them experience the thrill of playoff competition. I guess my tournament golf background gets the best of me and that means if you don’t play well, you usually don’t go anywhere. While it can be harsh and deflating, it resonates. No one is going to hand you anything and everything must be earned.
By letting teams who win just one or two league games or who have losing records think they are successful sends the wrong approach. More often than not, it sets them up for a huge disappointment at the next level in the playoffs, when they play teams who really were successful.
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Just a word on two huge sports stories last week. I didn’t have a problem with Greg Popovich resting his star players against the Miami Heat, though it just shows how little one game means in the NBA. Popovich could be looking back on that decision in April should the Spurs miss out on a home-court advantage in the playoffs by one game.
I don’t often agree with Rob Parker of ESPN who usually just states the obvious, but his view that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens deserve to be in the Hall of Fame as long as baseball continues to count the wins and losses from that era makes sense. It’s hard to disqualify the numbers put up by all the steroids users, yet look past their connection to the actual outcomes of the games, which is what Major League baseball and many baseball writers want you to do.