High School Sports

NCHSAA abolishes pod system for football

Posted December 6, 2012

High school football in North Carolina will have a new playoff format next season.

The N.C. High School Athletic Association voted Thursday to abolish the pod system for the football state playoffs, except in the 1-A and 1-AA classifications.

Adopted in May 2010, the pod system grouped each playoff classification into four regional groups. The goal of the system was to save money on travel, but in the end it created several conference rematches in the early rounds.

In the first year of the pod system, the NCHSAA said about 8,000 miles of travel were saved in the playoffs.

"It's certainly not real surprising to see it go," said Wake County Public Schools Athletic Director Bobby Guthrie, who served on the NCHSAA Board of Directors in 2010 when the pod system was adopted. "When I was there and we looked at the results, the most mileage was saved in the 1-A classification."

Earlier this year, the football coaches in North Carolina voted in favor of removing the pod system.

"When I voted on it as a coach, you could understand why they wanted it especially at the lower ranks, but we at the 3-A and 4-A ranks didn't feel like we needed it," said Cleveland High School head football coach Marc Morris.

At the NCHSAA Board of Directors meeting in May, the Sports Committee decided not to bring the pod system up for a vote of the entire board.

"I have heard for the last couple of years that people didn't really like it," said Guthrie. "The one thing I saw that it did in our area, it certainly created some very interesting match-ups very quickly. The other thing it did was, it almost guaranteed someone from our school system would be playing late in the playoffs."

Morris' Cleveland team was a part of the 3-AA East pod this season that Morris called a "super region." The pod was made up of Triton (10-0), Hunt (10-0), Cardinal Gibbons (10-0), Cleveland (9-1), Southern Nash (8-2), Gray's Creek (8-2), D.H. Conley (6-4) and West Brunswick (5-5).

The system resulted in No. 8 Cleveland traveling to No. 7 West Brunswick in the first round, even though in a normal 16-team playoff, Cleveland would have hosted No. 9 Southern Nash.

"I would prefer to have it without the pod system. I think you play the whole football season and you need to be seeded the way you're supposed to be seeded," Morris added.

Flaws extended into other classifications as well.

Wake Forest-Rolesville (9-1) received a No. 7 seed in the 4-AA East pod this year, and instead of hosting a first round game, the Cougars had to travel to No. 6 Wakefield (9-1) for a rematch of a conference game.

Reggie Lucas, head football coach at Wake Forest-Rolesville High School, said he wasn't completely against the pod system, but that there were parts he didn't like.

"I think the pod system brought competitive first and second round games, whereas before I think the system was set up where two good teams wouldn't meet until about the third round," Lucas said. "That said, I think without the pod system, conference teams will have the opportunity to play teams from outside their conference, and I think that's a good thing."

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"I think everybody would have rather played somebody different early in the playoffs if they could," Guthrie added. "When you play somebody the last game of the season and you turn around and play them again the following week, that's not a whole bunch of fun. It's not fun in any sport but especially in football."

Qualification criteria for the state playoffs will not change. The top three teams from a conference will all receive automatic bids to the playoffs. All remaining spots will be filled by at-large teams based on overall record and conference winning percentage.

64 teams from each classification will continue to make up the playoffs. The four classes will be subdivided into eight classes.

For teams in the 1-A and 1-AA state playoffs, the pod system will remain in place. Prior to the pod system being installed, teams in the 1-A or 1-AA playoffs often had to travel across the state in early rounds because 1-A schools are widely spread out across the state.

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