Gossett blog: Loaded playoff quadrants not fair

Gossett blog: Loaded playoff quadrants not fair

November 12th, 2012 by Ward Gossett in Sportspreps

Tired of hearing about shortcomings of the TSSAA?

I promise I won't write -- well, not much -- about the state high school association's finances.

But here is another serious question: In the final week of the regular season the TSSAA used its computer to rate the top teams in each classification. How do three of the top four teams wind up in the same eight-team quadrant?

Easy, you say. It's based on geography, and you're right. It's the philosophy endorsed by the TSSAA board of control. And it's wrong. Grossly unfair.

Take a look at the last Class 2A rankings and then the 2A bracket where Nos. 1 (Knoxville Grace), 2 (Oneida) and 4 (Boyd-Buchanan) were in the same eight-team quadrant. Then add Nos. 7 (Hampton) and 8 (Silverdale Baptist), Rockwood and two byes. That's five of the top 10 in one eight-line, six-team quarter of a 32-team bracket.

That's five 9-1 teams going in. No other quadrant really came close because there were only two other 9-1 teams in the field. Think they're in the same quadrant? Not.

Is there any reason to take it any further? Take the top 24 or 32 (Class 1A and Class 2A are 24-team brackets) and seed them, as I mentioned earlier, with No. 1 playing No. 32 or No. 1 playing the winner between Nos. 23 and 24 in the lower-classification brackets.

Why not call out the board of control on this one and give the best teams the postseason road they deserve? Forget about expense and geography: Cough up some mileage money and do the right thing.

Will it work? Keep an eye on Georgia's Class A bracket and pairings in the next week or two.

It's like Gordonsville and South Pittsburg last Friday night (Gordonsville won 14-13). Both coaches and many fans felt that was in fact Tennessee's Class 1A championship game. For the record, and to be fair, South Pittsburg was listed only 10th in the final Class 1A computer-generated rankings. But wait, the TSSAA gave teams credit for playing up in classifications, right? Wrong. Unless I have been misinformed, it's a fallacy in the system.

South Pittsburg played seven playoff teams but also two Class 2A teams, three Class 3A teams and a Class 4A team.

In case you're wondering, I'm not battling the non-Chattanooga teams in the postseason but use them because they are the examples most familiar to me.

* It's hard to understand sometimes how people do the things they do and how and why they think as they do.

Football coaches were quite vocal in their disappointment in the TSSAA board of control's decision to keep six playoff classifications. Yet when they had a chance to remove one of the board members who voted for the six-class continuation, they sat on their hands.

So, fellows, I say you get what you deserve with your non-action. What the general public needs to understand is that this specific board member, Sequatchie County principal Tommy Layne, has more than a fair amount of pull with top administrators in numerous Hamilton County schools, including influential East Hamilton, Soddy-Daisy and Tyner. It isn't just Hamilton, though, but Marion and also Grundy counties.

* Now, the Times Free Press did an inordinate amount of research comparing Tennessee's playoff finances to those throughout the rest of the Southeast. The TSSAA takes 50 percent of all football playoff gates, saying it needs the money to pay for catastrophic insurance. That take is 20 percent more than the next highest state association. You look at membership dues across the region and who pays what when.

This was exposing a flaw, at least asking how other states do it as compared to Tennessee. For example, how does Alabama offer year-end paybacks although basically charging no membership dues?

Yet when asked for a financial report on their first playoff game of the 2012 season, administrators at a few local schools refused, saying they weren't comfortable giving out those numbers. One school -- one of the bigger ones, as a matter of fact -- just flat ignored requests and refused to answer emails, hoping we'd go away and deadlines would keep those figures out of the news.

My initial thought is that administrators at too many high schools don't understand the value of athletics or the need for their athletic programs' financial well-being.

No. 2 on the initial thoughts list is that administrators are running scared. Of the TSSAA? It's almost like there's a them-against-us mentality and they don't realize they are with "them" when they need to be with "us."

And then I wonder. Are there that many eggheads out there? Really? And in positions of responsibility? I have to ask, how long does it take a bookkeeper to assimilate a financial statement on a single playoff game. You have gate receipts; you pay the officials out of the TSSAA's share (yes, its 50 PERCENT share) and split what's left with the opponent. Other than paying for security, what else is taken out of the gate? Nothing, nada.

Think anybody was checking their politically correct dos and don'ts book rather than standing up and speaking out, or just simply getting the job done?

Is football any more important than the band? Politically speaking, no. And there is a definite place for bands and orchestras. I'd imagine at some schools there are more youngsters receiving band scholarships than athletics. (And we can only hope that both are eligible for academic financing.)

Off the record, though, how many people would come to watch the band every Friday night if it was 48 minutes of marching and music and 20 minutes of slobber-knocking? And if you haven't heard, the combined music rooms at East Hamilton, for example, are somewhere around three or four times the size of the weight room, which is used by all athletes.

* Now that another group out there is offended, although it was a practical and honest assessment, it's time to jump back on the TSSAA list of imperfections.

Taken a look at the latest district alignments? I thought Polk County might be headed south. I know coach Derrick Davis had entertained thoughts of joining District 6-AA. Because of his team's reputation, games with even a 50-50 chance of winning are hard to come by, and now, stuck in a four-team district, he has to find seven games.

Are there other teams in similar situations? Put it this way: Polk already was playing 6A Bradley Central, 5A Walker Valley, 4A Signal Mountain and perennial state championship hopeful South Pittsburg. The Wildcats may have to start looking across state lines into North Carolina, Georgia or even Alabama.

And Meigs County, which dropped from Class 3A to 2A -- you're going to send the Tigers, who are less than an hour from most District 5-A teams, north to District 3-A while sending Tellico Plains south to District 5-A? For those who haven't looked, Tellico Plains is a whole lot closer to numerous District 3-A teams than Meigs is. If there weren't some granting of specific requests for whatever reason, somebody in the TSSAA needs to go back to elementary school or middle school and study up on maps and map-reading.

* Some of the folks at Giles County were talking and asked how long Notre Dame, their Class 4A playoff opponent last Friday night, had been around.

"You see, we don't know. We've always been paired with teams in the West," they said.

Um, didn't see that one coming? Giles County wasn't the only team that all of a sudden wound up in the eastern half rather than the west. Check it out.

* And finally, while on the subject of Giles County, the Bobcats are ranked No. 1 among the state's Class 4A teams. They're a couple or three years removed from a state title and they have the makings of a state title team. Their quarterback is the real deal and a tremendous orchestrator of their precision passing game.

The stadium is really nice -- a whole lot of brick -- and they're pretty good hosts, although there was no room in the press box last Friday. I usually run the sidelines anyway, at least for the first half, so that wasn't an issue.

And for the East Hamilton folks headed that way this week, I'd say take the Mapquest directions on the way -- get off at I-24's Sewanee exit and head down the side of the mountain via Highway 64 -- but come back through Decherd, picking up I-24 East on the Nashville side of Monteagle. It is a quicker and less precarious drive, especially in the dark.

There were two decent restaurants we heard about in Pulaski (and make sure if you google it to google Pulaski, Tenn.). One was the Hickory House, which we passed on, and one was Legends, which is a couple of miles past Giles County High but has good food with a pretty quick backroads trip back to the stadium.

And please be aware that the stadium, while visible from the high school, is probably a mile or more from the high school front doors.

* Parting shot: For all those parents out there selling the discount team cards or doughnuts or Cokes or even washing cars to help raise money for your favorite team, email or call your school's administration team and ask how much money the TSSAA has squirreled away and how much money goes through its coffers annually. It might not be enough to chop down the national debt, but it's sizable.