KHSAA Football Playoff Changes Explained
Some of this year's changes to the high school football playoffs in Kentucky are easier to understand than in years past.
As before, each district, in all but one case, will have at least 4 teams. Also, classes 6A and 1A each still have 32 teams statewide, which assures the biggest and smallest schools a playoff spot. Playoffs aren't as guaranteed in most of the districts from 2A to 5A, of course; if you finish 5th or 6th, you're out. Either way, the district round-robin games remain what counts for playoff purposes.
The first two rounds have been simplified. The 1st place team in each district, based on that round-robin record, will host the 4th place team, and 2nd hosts 3rd, on November 8th. The second round a week later has the previous week's winners facing each other, with the higher seed hosting. Where it gets a bit complicated, though, is during the quarterfinals. A ratings system based on regular season results will be used to seed the remaining eight teams. For the quarterfinals on November 22, the champions of Districts 1 through 4 will be in one bracket, while those from Districts 5 through 8 are in the other. The teams with the highest ratings get home field advantage.
For the semifinals on the Friday after Thanksgiving (Nov 29), the top two teams statewide, based on those same ratings, will host the semifinals. And those, of course, lead up to Championship Weekend, December 5-7, at UK's Kroger Field.
The ratings system to be used will bear some resemblance to the old RPI index used by the NCAA for basketball, with nearly equal weight given to a team's regular season record, the records of their opponents, and the records of their opponents' opponents. Those ratings will be posted weekly starting on or about October 1st. The final week's ratings, coming out by Nov. 5th, will be the basis for how the quarter- and semifinals are seeded, as well as for eventually determining the "home" team in each of the championship games at UK.
The biggest opposition to this format change came from coaches who didn't like the idea of a playoff rematch against teams in their district. They were more used to the earlier "cross-district" format in the first three rounds, even though that still led to district rematches during last year's state quarterfinals, like Male vs. St. X in 6A, and CAL vs. DeSales in 2A. The KHSAA board, in its reasoning behind the changes, said that playoff rematches happen often in other sports, so why not football? Besides, the rest of their argument went, playoffs within districts could save money on travel.
It will take a lot of getting used to, but I'm sure many, from coaches and players to media and spectators, will enjoy this fresh postseason football approach.