By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
A big change was made to high school sports Monday morning when the Florida High School Athletic Association’s board of directors voted to implement a new playoff format for football.
In a 14-2 vote by the board of directors, the FHSAA’s new system will bring an emphasis on strength of schedule for the regular season, as well as add at-large berths for teams who don’t win their districts.
“This is a landmark day for high school football in the state of Florida,” FHSAA director of athletics Frank Beasley said in a press conference Monday. “It’s been a long on-going process. We’ve been talking to people for over a year about this. We’re excited about where we’re going. We have the best high school football in the nation. This is only going to enhance that, and we hope to build the game and grow the game.”
Beginning next season, each of the four regions in Class 5A through Class 8A will have eight teams in the playoffs, with the four district winners of the region seeded one through four. Seeds five through eight will be made up of the at-large teams, who will qualify based on a new points system.
This eliminates the current format, in which the playoff teams are comprised of district champions and runners-up.
Strength of schedule will now be a major factor. Teams must also play a minimum of eight games during the regular season to be eligible for a playoff seed.
Defeating a team with a .800 winning percentage will give your team 50 points, while a loss earns that team 35 points. A win against a team with a winning percentage between .600 and .790 gives a team 45 points, with a loss earning 30 points.
Earning points decreases through the final two categories.
“I kind of like this (new system) better,” Lemon Bay coach D.J. Ogilvie said. “Right now, the way the district is, it’s your district games that counts, and your non-league is just your non-league.
“I like where every game means something. In my mind, all 10 games are important, but if they’re not going to count towards making the playoffs, are they really that important? But now, if you’re going to say you want to make the playoffs, and not win the district, you better be pretty good. I think that’s better.”
As an example, through four games this season, Charlotte High School would have earned 170 points for its wins over Lely (3-2), North Miami (3-2), Ida Baker (2-3) and Fort Myers (2-3). District rival Port Charlotte would have 145 points for its four wins over Lemon Bay (0-4), Barron Collier (3-2), Cape Coral (0-4) and Booker (0-4).
If the new playoff system were implemented this year, and neither team won District 6A-10, Charlotte’s strength of schedule would give it an advantage over Port Charlotte in an attempt to grab an at-berth spot.
There will also no longer be districts for Class 1A through 4A schools. Those teams will create its own schedules based on the new regions the FHSAA will be drawing up. All the qualifiers will be based on the points system.
Schools in those four classes will have the opportunity to move up to higher classes if they choose to.