Miller County coach Frank Killingsworth compares the new Region A playoff scenario to Wile E. Coyote running off a cliff.
ALBANY — Randolph-Clay football coach Daniel McFather probably has the most succinct and straight forward response to the new Class A football playoff criteria as any coach in Georgia.
“It’s crazy,’’ McFather said. “I hate it.’’
He’s not alone.
The Class A football teams finish their regular season on Friday night, but instead of looking at the standings and finding which teams finished 1-2-3-4 to qualify for the playoffs, coaches, players, fans and media will be looking at a power-rating system that will determine who gets in the postseason and who stays home.
That system has not been kind to the teams in Southwest Georgia, who compete in Region 1-A. Instead of sending the top four teams in the region to the playoffs, only one or two teams may qualify for the postseason. Under the new rules, only the region champ is guaranteed a berth in the playoffs.
The new system was put into place by the GHSA this season after agreeing to split the public schools and private schools in the playoffs and have two state playoffs — one for the private and one for the public schools. The schools in SW Georgia were one of the loudest voices back in January to have a separate public school playoff and state champ. But no one expected the criteria to change so drastically.
“We were all for the split,’’ McFather said. “But we thought we would have the same format and the top four teams in the region would go to the playoffs. Then they came up with this power-rating format.’’
The GHSA changed the format and instead of sending four teams from eight regions, there are now 16 private and 16 public schools in two state playoffs. Many critics wondered why the top four teams couldn’t move on and have 32 of the 38 pubic schools compete in the postseason.
Instead, the region champs will automatically advance to the state playoffs, and the other teams will be selected based on their power-rating. Here’s where it gets to be chaotic.
“I call it the Wile E. Coyote plan. You’ve seen Wile E. Coyote and the roadrunner, right? Wile E. Coyote sets up a door and then he winds up running through the door, and there’s a cliff on the other side of the door. That’s what we’ve got here. They had a plan (the door) but no one looked at what was on the other side (the cliff).’’
Miller County football coach on the new GHSA power rating format, which decides which Class A teams make the playoffs
Each team is given a power-rating number. The power rating is based on a complicated formula that awards 10 points for every win, and an extra two points for playing a bigger class opponent. So when Miller and Seminole lost games to Class AA Early County, the Pirates and Indians picked up two points for playing a team in a higher class.
If they had played and lost to a Class AAAAAA team, they would have picked up 12 points.
“The schedules were already set before we knew about the power-ratings and how they would be done,’’ Seminole coach Alan Ingram said. “If you knew it was going to be this way, then I would go out and schedule a bunch of weak AAAAA teams I know I can beat.’’
Points are also awarded based on opponents’ win-loss record, and teams are awarded one point for a forfeit, five points for a tie, and no points for a loss against a Class A team. Take the total points accumulated under this formula and then divide by 10 to get a team’s power rating.
1) Ten points for a each win against Class A opponents.
2) Two points for playing teams each class up.
3) Opponent’s wins/opponent’s games played multiplied by 10.
4) One point for a forfeit.
5) No points for a loss in Class A.
6) Five points for a tie.
7) Take the total number of accumulated points and divide by 10.
Ingram doesn’t like the new format but said it was better than the old way of having to play private schools in the playoffs.
“It’s better than what we had,’’ he said. “Everyone wanted the (split). And I’m glad we got it. This system needs to be tweaked. But it’s so much better than what we had before.’’
The other format simply wasn’t fair to the Class A public schools, because private schools can control their enrollments and in many cases they can control what athletes attend their schools.
It was a great victory for the Class A public schools to get the split, but football coaches were shocked when they found out the top four teams were not going to the playoffs.
Miller County coach Frank Killingsworth has never liked the idea of the power rating and said so in August.
“I call it the Wile E. Coyote plan,’’ Killingsworth said before the season started. “You’ve seen Wile E. Coyote and the roadrunner, right? Wile E. Coyote sets up a door and then he winds up running through the door, and there’s a cliff on the other side of the door. That’s what we’ve got here. They had a plan (the door) but no one looked at what was on the other side (the cliff).’’
The other side simply means the top four teams won’t go to the playoffs, and several coaches pointed out that the new format killed programs in midseason, saying that in some cases once a team felt it was out of the postseason picture because of the ratings, the kids packed it in or started getting ready for basketball season.
Here’s where the Region 1-A race stands now.
If Seminole beats Mitchell County on Friday, the Indians will win the region title and earn an automatic bid to the playoffs. If Mitchell wins, the Eagles would force a three-way tie for first place between Seminole, Miller and Mitchell, which would all have one loss in the region.
In that scenario, Miller would win the region, based on the first tiebreaker, which is the overall record against Class A schools. Miller’s only loss to a Class A team was to Seminole. Mitchell lost to Miller, 21-20, and to Clinch County. Seminole also lost to Clinch.
Miller wrapped up its regular season last week and is 8-2 with a power rating of 12.46. The Pirates are ranked No. 12 and could make the playoffs even if Seminole wins. Seminole is ranked No. 10 in the public school power ratings at 12.14. Mitchell is ranked 22nd with a power rating of 10.58, but No. 16 Greenville has a power rating of just 11.32.
“It could come down to a tenth of a point or a 100th of a point,’’ Mitchell County coach Larry Cornelius said. “We don’t know, because a lot depends on how the teams you played do on the last week. If they all win it helps your power rating. I have stayed up nights looking at it. There are just too many variables.’’
Under the old system of sending the top four teams, coaches, players and fans could read the region standings and know where they stood.
Under that system, Friday night’s game between Randolph-Clay and Terrell County would have been huge. Both teams are 2-3 in the region and the winner will finish fourth.
That would have guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, and Friday’s showdown would have been just like a playoff game with all the excitement and buzz that comes with it.
Big crowd, big emotion — Friday Night Lights at it’s best with a playoff spot on the line.
Now, because Randolph-Clay is ranked No. 22 (9.79) and Terrell County is ranked No. 28 (8.64) in the power ratings, the game carries no playoff significance.