WIAA makes changes to football playoffs

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Eric Schmoldt
Sunday, February 2, 2014

Clinton High hosted a WIAA football playoff game for the first time in school history this past fall.

If a new rule passed this week had been in place, however, the Cougars’ wait would have continued.

Clinton made the Division 4 bracket as the No. 5 seed, and it went on the road to win a Level 1 game. Under the old rules, that meant the Cougars got to host a Level 2 game against Big Foot.

Under the new rules, Big Foot—the top-seeded team that improved to 11-0 by winning that game at Clinton—would have hosted all the way through Level 3.

The higher-seeded team will now host football playoff games in Levels 1-3. It was the most notable fall-sports rule change, at least in regards to this area of the state, made during a WIAA Board of Control meeting this past week.

“It’s something that’s been discussed for a number of years,” said Big Foot Athletic Director Tim Collins, who represents District 6 on the WIAA’s Sports Advisory Committee. “Football was the only sport where the higher seed did not host throughout. So there was a little inequity there, but there’s also the financial impact, because football is obviously your biggest money-maker.”

It seems like a classic case of dollars versus sense.

Giving the lower seed an opportunity to host a playoff game meant one more Friday night (or Saturday, perhaps) of revenue that streams in from a home football game.

But the process also rewarded the lower-seeded team for one upset victory instead of rewarding the higher seed for its body of work throughout the entire season.

“From my standpoint, I was in favor of letting the top seed host throughout because we’ve been a top seed the last six or seven years,” Collins said. “I understand that may change in the future, but I’ve dealt with having to tell our townsfolk why we’re traveling.

“I also understand the financial impact of it. Had Clinton not hosted that second-round game, they wouldn’t have hosted. That was a huge financial impact for them.”

Other changes

The Board of Control implemented a conference realignment plan in the Green Bay area that impacted 76 schools in eight conferences. With that out of the way, some area programs—most notably Orfordville Parkview—hope that the WIAA will next turn its realignment discussions this direction, though there has been no indication that any such project is on the WIAA’s short-term radar.

In football, the board approved an acclimatization plan targeted at player safety. The plan defines protocol for length and scheduling of preseason and in-season practices and increases the number of required practices for gradual acclimation to full practice equipment.

In boys soccer, a waiver will be sought to experiment with 45-minute halves while doing away with overtime during the regular season. Currently, teams play 40-minute halves.

Rock Valley crossover solution

While it didn’t involve the Board of Control meeting, the Rock Valley Conference has seemingly found a solution for its football crossover conundrum.

With the RVC North schools—typically larger in enrollment—dominating the South programs in crossover tilts in recent years, new ideas were sought on how such games should impact league standings.

In 2013, the crossovers counted toward the conference records of the North teams but not the South. The WIAA did not see that as a viable long-term solution.

In 2014, Rock Valley teams will play crossover games in Weeks 3 and 4, with only the Week 4 game counting toward the conference standings for all 12 teams, Collins said this week.

“It’s kind of a middle ground for everybody,” Collins said. “That Week 3 game will give us schedule relief, so none of us has to go out and try to find three nonconference games.

“Now that we’ve gone to seven divisions, a 3-3 record will get you in the playoffs. Years ago, 3-3 might not have gotten you in, but now it pretty much guarantees to get you in.”

The schedule will be set randomly starting this fall.

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