A committee comprised primarily of football coaches and athletic directors from around the state are meeting Sunday morning with John Miller from the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association to discuss possible ways to improve early playoff pairings.
“It’s just a brain-storming session,” Bob Bourgette said of the 11 a.m. get-together at Kennedy Catholic High School.
Bourgette, athletic director and head football coach at Kennedy, is president of the Washington State Football Coaches Association. Coaches discussed the possibility of seeding teams into the rounds of 32 (preliminary playoffs officially not sanctioned by the WIAA) and 16 (WIAA first round) when they met last winter, according to Bourgette. Representatives then asked to meet with the WIAA, but held off until the state basketball tournament formats were addressed earlier this month.
Miller, WIAA assistant executive director who oversees football, agreed to attend Sunday’s meeting.
When the idea first came to light back in March, Mason Kelley wrote this story about it.
Bourgette stressed that the state coaches’ association is not critisizing the WIAA.
“We’re not saying they’ve done a horrible job,” he said. “We’re just trying to sit down collectively and see if there’s any way we can make it better.”
One possibility the coaches came up with is having a committee of retired coaches seed qualifiers into the playoffs to create more balanced brackets and avoid first-round matchups between top teams. State rankings might also be considered.
In Class 4A and 3A, coaches are also interested in taking a look at the preliminary playoff games, which currently determine how teams are placed into the round of 16. The issue there isn’t so much who plays who, but how the winners are seeded.
For instance, in Class 3A, the West Central District 3 encompasses three leagues: Narrows, Seamount and SPSL. Each league champion could be 10-0 after winning in the preliminary round. Only one can be seeded as WCD No. 1 into the round of 16. The others are No. 2 and No. 3, and those seeds rotate over three years so each league has a chance at No. 1.
So, that No. 3 WCD team could then wind up playing a No. 1 seed from another district. That happened in 2007, when Lakes played Skyline in the opening round. They were rated No. 1 and 2 in the state rankings that year.
Dave Lutes, a former football coach who is the Kent School District Athletic Director, has been in charge of creating the 4A and 3A 10th-game brackets for teams on this side of the state since 2004. He actually started a system of pooling berths between the SPSL 4A and the Greater St. Helen’s League back in 2000. Eventually the Narrows, KingCo and WesCo joined the process.
Lutes looks at the allocations the WIAA gives each district and follows certain criteria to create the brackets and seeding positions. He said he believes coaches have valid concerns about the process, or the pairings results, but admits he’s a little leary of having a committee subjectively seed teams.
Still, he supports the efforts to improve the system.
“There’s nothing wrong with discussion,” Lutes said. “If they can come up with a way to improve what we’re already doing, great. But I need to hear that and made that bridge between objective to the subjective side.
We will follow up on Sunday’s meeting and continue to follow this story.