May 6, 2010
The N.C. High School Athletic Association Board of Directors voted Wednesday to make changes to the high school football season.
Currently, the football regular season is 12 weeks long, consisting of 11 playing dates and an off week. Under the new NCHSAA rules, the season will be shortened to 11 weeks, but teams will still play 11 games, including an endowment game. There will be no off weeks.
Teams will still report 10 game records to the NCHSAA for seeding in the playoffs, so if a team plays an endowment game, it will be permitted to drop one non-conference loss for seeding purposes. If a team plays an endowment game but doesn't lose a non-conference game, it will have to drop a non-conference win.
The NCHSAA said the budget impact is inconclusive at this time, but the Association said shortening the season by one week would help reduce the overlap of football and men's basketball seasons.
Under the current calendar, football teams who advance deep into the state playoffs overlap the basketball season by several weeks. NCHSAA rules do not allow players to play football and basketball at the same time, and in some cases, the conference basketball season arrives before the football team is finished playing.
Some schools have expressed concerns that taking away an off week would eliminate flexibility in scheduling. For example, conferences with odd numbers of teams in them could have difficult times filling schedules because there will always be one team without a conference opponent to play on a given night.
"That's going to be tough," Wayne Bragg, Panther Creek High School head football coach, said of the new calendar. "We've got nine teams in our conference. What if you've got the eighth bye week? It's going to be tough to find somebody to play."
Leesville Road head football coach David Green used to coach in South Carolina and they had a similar scenario. Green said the solution the schools came up with was to match odd-numbered conferences together so that the two teams from each conference that had an off week would play one another that week.
"It was a real problem," Green said.
Bragg said he is also concerned that playing football 11 straight weeks in the regular season plus up to five weeks in the playoffs could be a lot of physical stress on the student-athletes.
"That's kind of rough on the body. They're not going to get a lot of time recoporate and take care of injuries," he said.
Eventually, this could mean the elimination of the endowment game which could cause future financial problems for the Association. Bragg admitted dropping the endowment game may be something schools will have to look at.
"I think you want to play as many games as you can," said Bragg. "I like the way the endowment game is set up now, but some teams probably will have to opt out of it."
The new regular season schedule will go into place in time for the 2011 football season.
Changes were also made Wednesday to the playoff format for football.
Each classification will still be subdivided in the playoffs (4-AA, 4-A, 3-AA, 3-A, etc), but the brackets will be separated into four regional pods to reduce the cost of travel. The regions will include east, mideast, west and midwest.
The pod system will first be used in the 2010 football playoffs this coming fall.
The NCHSAA hopes the new pod system will reduce the financial burden of travel in the earlier rounds of the playoffs. However, the regional pairings could mean that conference opponents would play each other early in the playoffs.
According to the NCHSAA, the regions will be determined based off the longitudinal location of a school after the qualifying teams are determined. This is the same process the NCHSAA has used in the past to divide the playoffs into east and west regions.
Last fall, the Currituck football team notified the NCHSAA after the brackets were released that it intended to forfeit it's first round playoff game to Cardinal Gibbons. Less than an hour later the team reversed it's decision and the game went on.
The NCHSAA will now have a way to respond to such requests.
On Wednesday, the Board of Directors voted to create an opt-out option for schools who wish to remain out of the state playoffs. The option consists of a form that must be signed by the athletic director, the principal and the superintendent prior to the release of the brackets.
By opting out of the playoffs before the brackets come out, the NCHSAA will be able to fill the open spot with the next qualifying team to prevent any loss of revenue.
The NCHSAA also changed a few other things and took some other actions on Wednesday: