Nick Stevens

Pod playoff system flawed

Posted November 3, 2010

I didn't think I'd like it when it was passed.

Now that we're seeing it in action, I know I don't like it.

I'm talking about the new pod system the N.C. High School Athletic Association is using for the football state playoffs this season.

GIVE YOUR INPUT: Discuss | Vote | Text "POD" to 46988

When the pod system was developed and implemented, the NCHSAA said it would help limit the amount of travel teams would have to endure in the first rounds of the state playoffs.

For real?

Have a look at current projections from Drew Pasteur's Fantastic 50.

Simply look at the 4-AA Mideast projections. Panther Creek is projected to travel to Lumberton in the first round, a round trip of approximately 224.04 miles. Scotland County is projected to travel to Cary, a round trip of approximately 181.94 miles. Middle Creek is projected to travel to Jack Britt, a round trip of approximately 115.94 miles. In a more logical match-up based on the argument for the pod system, Jordan is projected to travel to Fuquay-Varina, a round trip of 61.02 miles.

The average round trip for the 4-AA Mideast in the first round, based off the projections from Pasteur, is 145.74 miles.

Still not convinced?

Let's look at the 4-AA Midwest.

East Forsyth is projected to travel to Butler in the first round, a round trip of approximately 183.94 miles. West Forsyth is projected to travel to Richmond County, a round trip of approximately 234.46 miles. Providence is projected to travel to Page, a round trip of approximately 223.88 miles. Vance is projected to travel to Northwest Guilford, a round trip of approximately 175.82 miles.

The average round trip for the 4-AA Midwest in the first round, based off the same projections, is 204.53 miles.

It's pretty obvious that the pod system is not doing what it is intended to do.

Why is that?

Well, the NCHSAA uses the GPS locations of schools - specifically the longitudes - of the schools to determine what geographic location a school will be placed in (east, mideast, midwest, west). The longitude measures the location east and west, but it does not take into account the north and south position of schools.

Look at the match-ups that involve teams far away from one another. They may be close to the same longitude, but they're not necessarily close to the same latitude - that is, one school is significantly further north or south than the other.

Why do I care?

Well, not only is the pod system not going to do what it was supposed to, but it risks putting the toughest teams up against one another in the first rounds of the playoffs.

For example, in the first Fantastic 50 projections, Pasteur had Cary playing Jack Britt in the first round, then playing the winner of Jordan and Richmond County in the second round. Cary and Jack Britt were both projected to have 9-1 records, Richmond County a 10-0 record.

Teams that finish first and second in their conference have worked hard all season to get home field advantage in at least the first round, and that usually means a team that is seeded in the lower half of the region.

That same projection also had Panther Creek traveling to Fuquay-Varina, then playing the winner of Middle Creek and Lumberton. That's three teams from the same conference in one four-team section!

It's too late to change the pod system for this season, but hopefully the NCHSAA will consider reverting back to the way we did playoffs last season and in prior seasons. Based on the conversations I've had with some area coaches this week, I think the NCHSAA will hear about the displeasure with the pod system after this season ends.

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