MHSAA Representative Council makes postseason bracketing changes, introducing district seeding for soccer, eliminating football's automatic qualifier
The MHSAA’s Representative Council made significant changes to the postseason bracketing for three sports at its spring meeting, agreeing to employ in-district seeding for boys and girls soccer, and removing the automatic qualifier for football, replacing it with a system designed to promote tougher scheduling.
Starting next fall, a computer formula — the Michigan Power Ratings, which is used to seed the boys lacrosse tournament this spring — will be used to determine the top two teams in each district for boys and girls soccer, separating them to opposite sides of the district draw, ensuring they can’t meet until the district title game. Beyond that, the random draw process will remain unchanged to fill out the bracket, and the rule change doesn’t guarantee that the seeded teams will host, or receive byes.
The MHSAA football committee recommended the changes to the playoff selection process to reward “good losses,” as well as eliminating the six-win automatic qualifier, theoretically creating an incentive for programs to schedule tougher opponents, rather than the opposite effect engendered by the old system.
Starting in 2020, the eight divisions will be set before the season (meaning no teams will slide up or down anymore), and each division’s 32 postseason-eligible teams will be determined by the playoff point average.
The calculation for playoff points was tweaked, as well, with teams now getting credit (in the form of bonus points) for all wins by an opponent on their schedule, regardless of whether or not they beat that opponent. Before, teams were only credited with those bonus points for opponents’ wins if they’d won their matchup with that opponent. Now, a “good loss” against a top-notch opponent will still boost a team’s playoff point score.
The committee also added bonus points to be awarded for beating teams from higher divisions, incentivizing teams to schedule up, rather than down.
Limited video review — for use only on scoring/potential scoring plays or turnover/potential turnovers plays — at both the 11-player and 8-player finals, where the availability of camera coverage makes it feasible. As with replay on other levels, calls will only be overturned by “indisputable video evidence showing the original call was incorrect.”
Finally, the committee put a hard cap on the enrollment of teams eligible for the MHSAA 8-Player postseason at 215 students, regardless of where the cutoff for Class D lies in that particular year.
Other key approved recommendations:
• For track, a double waterfall mark and step-up start for the 800, 1,600 and 3,200, beginning in 2020, as well as the addition of Thursdays for possible regional scheduling, allowing hosts more flexibility in scheduling around ACT and SAT testing dates.
• For golf: Lower Peninsula regionals may be played any day, Monday to Saturday, to make the scheduling of busy golf courses easier, while a hard maximum of 12 strokes on a hole was set to improve pace of play. Also, golfers may use cell phones to: 1) call a coach or tournament official for health or safety reasons; 2) inputting scores into a live-scoring application; 3) contacting a rules official with a question; and 4) as a device to measure distance.
• For soccer: the council approved a recommendation allowing multi-team tournaments to be played on “days not followed by a school day,” and removed a rule that required postseason finals to begin after 5 p.m. on SAT or ACT testing days.
• For football: Starting this fall, teams will be allowed a limit of six hours of full-pads “collision” contact per week in the preseason, and 30 minutes per week in-season, while “thud” contact will be unlimited. Collision contact is “contact at game speed, with the execution of full tackles at a competitive pace, taking players to the ground,” while thud contact is full speed, but above the waist only, and players remaining on their feet.
• The council tweaked the wording of parts of the sport-specific transfer rule that will be in place next fall:
A player who changed residence won’t be granted immediate eligibility if they followed a coach from their former school to a new school, and students who were confirmed to have made an athletic-motivated transfer will not be eligible during the current school year for a sport they played at their previous school the preceding year.