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updated: 10/31/2013 8:29 PM

Planting the seeds of playoff change

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  • Dom Garza of Wheaton North runs the ball during the Glenbard North at Wheaton North football game Friday.

      Dom Garza of Wheaton North runs the ball during the Glenbard North at Wheaton North football game Friday.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer


The power of change is a funny thing.

There it is, right in the palm of your hand. Only you can't see it.

This week's Eyes on Five looks at the power of change sitting in a bunch of palms right now.

1. Quadrant bashing:

Starting in 2002, the IHSA abandoned its format of seeding playoff football classes from 1 to 32 in favor of a more geographical seeding system.

At best classes were seeded in two groups of 1 to 16. At worst they were seeded 1 to 8 in four mini-brackets known as "quadrants."

For more than a decade, fans, coaches, players ... just about everyone's complained about the quadrant system that often groups too many strong teams in one bracket while other brackets remain far weaker.

The complaints rose again last week from Class 7A fans upset about a quadrant featuring private school giants Mt. Carmel and St. Rita in addition to an unbeaten team (Whitney Young) and a perennial power (Wheaton Warrenville South).

Class 5A fans weren't happy about the 1-to-16 northern bracket with Montini, Sycamore, Joliet Catholic and Kaneland. A straight 1-to-32 seeding, naysayers argue, would have broken up the powers into different corners of the bracket.

Well, the IHSA has an interesting message for those complaining about the quadrant system: Do something about it.

The IHSA didn't simply get rid of the 1-to-32 seeding system on its own. Changes like that either go through the IHSA Board of Directors, comprised of an elected group of 10 statewide principals, or through by-law proposals submitted by school principals.

Last week an IHSA administrator told me that no principals have proposed a by-law to switch back to 1-to-32 brackets. Plenty of other playoff proposals sit on the table, but nothing related to a 1-to-32 seeding system.

It's been that way for years. No one's brought it up for submission to a statewide ballot.

So here's the deal. If you REALLY want to go back to 1-to-32 seeding, it's time to get the coaches, athletic directors and principals on board for a concerted effort at pushing through a by-law.

Get it on a ballot, and you may be surprised how quickly we're back to 1-to-32 seeding.

2. Modest proposals:

That's not to say football folks haven't been busy trying to change the playoffs for the better.

On Monday the IHSA unveiled a list of 24 by-law proposals submitted by principals. The list includes three proposed changes to the playoff football system, all three involving expansion.

Here's the rundown:

• Proposal No. 1: A reduction to eight regular-season games and an expansion to 512 playoff teams with the choice for teams to opt out of the postseason. Qualifiers determined solely by strength-of-schedule "playoff points" accumulated by receiving 2 points for a win and 1 point for every win by opponents on the schedule.

The rationale is that expansion would ease scheduling concerns because teams wouldn't need to worry as much about their win total. Strength of schedule would be the determining factor for qualifying.

• Proposal No. 2: Reduce the regular season to eight games, with non-qualifying teams given the option to schedule a ninth against another non-qualifier. Expansion to 448 playoff qualifiers with the top 8 seeds in each class receiving first-round byes.

Again, the rationale is to reduce regular-season scheduling struggles and allow more players to experience the playoffs.

• Proposal No. 3: This one has local interest. Designed by Naperville Central coach Mike Stine and Naperville North coach Sean Drendel, and submitted by Naperville Central athletic director Andy Lutzenkirchen, it keeps the regular season at nine games while expanding the playoff field to 384 teams.

Class 1A to 4A would remain at 32 teams apiece, to keep enrollment numbers closer, while 5A to 8A expand to 64 teams. All teams with 4-5 records and many with 3-6 records would qualify.

The rationale remains easing the burden of nonconference scheduling while allowing additional competitive teams to qualify. A 3-6 DuPage Valley Conference team, for example, may make some noise in the playoffs but an 0-9 team likely would not.

The next step is town hall meetings to discuss the proposals. If the Legislative Committee deems any of the proposals worthy, they'll be submitted to a vote by the general IHSA membership.

Got a favorite?

3. A theory:

A local coach offered an interesting theory regarding first-round playoff matchups. He said you can figure out who'll win by tweaking the playoff points, which is a strength-of-schedule number representing the total number of wins by opponents on a team's schedule.

He says the key is getting every team to 5-4 records by adding 2 playoff points for each win above five. A 9-0 team, for example, would be given an extra 8 playoff points to account for the four wins above five. A 6-3 team would receive 2 extra playoff points while a 5-4 team would stay the same.

Let's apply the theory to a couple of Class 7A matchups. Downers Grove North, which has 44 playoff points, is a 5-4 eighth seed traveling to play top-seeded unbeaten Whitney Young, which has 36 points. Adding 8 points to Whitney Young's total to get the Dolphins to five wins increases their playoff points to match Downers North's 44.

That tweak of playoff points suggests an upset.

Just 1 playoff point separates Mt. Carmel (8-1) and Benet (6-3), but bringing both teams to 5 wins changes things. Mt. Carmel moves up to 58 points while Benet moves to 53.

Advantage Caravan? We'll have to see.

4. Making perfect:

So why aren't you out there practicing?

I know, I know ... your season ended because you didn't qualify for the playoffs. Only it doesn't have to end.

IHSA rules read that the season doesn't conclude until after the state championship games, which means everyone -- even non-qualifiers -- still can practice up to that point.

I realize you're probably exhausted from getting after it for the past three months. But if you wanted to get after it even more, you could.

Just throwing it out there.

5. Stat time:

With another 300-yard rushing effort last week, Glenbard North running back Justin Jackson increased his season total to 2,550 yards and his varsity total to 5,893 yards.

Where does that place him in state history?

If Jackson maintains his average of 283 rushing yards per game, he'll break the state record of 3,325 rushing yards in a season sometime during the Class 8A quarterfinals. Of course, Glenbard North must win its first two playoff games.

The all-time rushing yardage mark of 8,477 yards appears out of reach, but if Jackson keeps up his pace and the Panthers keep winning, he's destined for the top five.

Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_schmit

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