Palmetto State’s football playoffs need some layoffs

Playoffs? PLAYOFFS?

OK, so it’s hard to do my best Jim Mora Sr. impersonation in print, but you get the idea.

As the former Indianapolis Colts coach was irritated by a reporter’s question about the postseason following his team’s loss, I’m equally outraged over the state of South Carolina’s high school football playoff system.

The Palmetto State uses a four-classification system for all high school sports – except football. The SCHSL now crowns seven state championships, splitting three of the four divisions in half in the postseason.

Class AAA is the only one that holds a true playoff system for every school in the classification. A, AAAA and now AA divide the class in two, from smallest to largest, and hold a mockery of a postseason to make the most people happy.

It might make sense if S.C. was the size and population of say Texas, Florida or California, where crowning seven state champs might make sense to cut down on travel costs. When you’re dealing with 2,000 schools instead of 200, it may work.

But for one of the nation’s smallest states to hand out hardware like The Home Depot does not compute. Making the playoffs should be a reward for a great season, and winning a state championship should mean beating the best in your class.

Instead, the Palmetto State treats the postseason like an open house. “Come on in and take your coat off. What’s that, you didn’t win a game this season? That’s OK, we’ll find a spot at the table for you.”

You think I’m exaggerating? Take the case of the Kingstree Jaguars, who are coming off a miserable 0-10 season. You would think the Jaguars would be ready to say “We’ll get ’em next year” and break out the basketballs.

But no, now that Class AA has decided to split into Divisions I and II for the postseason, even the winless Jags are invited to the party. By the way, they open next week against Timberland, which beat them 60-0 last Friday. I wonder who will win the rematch?

So what if a few extra kids get to wear a state title ring? Because that right is supposed to be earned or it doesn’t have the same meaning. Why not just give them to everybody and call the playoffs off?

Is South Carolina really that different from other states? Glad you asked. YES. Fortunately for me, the fine folks at SCVarsity.com did all the research and math, allowing me to remain sane and cite their homework.

Before this season, S.C. allowed more teams in the playoffs (65 percent) than all but one other state, Wyoming, which invites 70 percent of its schools. Since Wyoming is roughly the size of 10 South Carolina’s, the Cowboy State gets a pass.

But now that S.C. has decided to allow every school from Class AA to make the playoffs, Kingstree included, we are now No. 1. Yeah, we’re No. 1 – at having an open-door playoff policy. But this is one category you’d rather not win.

A better term for “playoffs” in South Carolina might be “payoffs” since that’s really what the pigskin postseason is all about in the Palmetto State. The more teams that make it the more playoff games, the more fans that buy tickets, the more money that flows into the SCHSL coffers. After all, the governing body needs all the cash it can get to buy all those state championship trophies.

There are dozens of counter-proposals for better ways to run the football postseason, and I’m for almost any of them that understands one simple principle: When it comes to holding a playoff for a state champion, sometimes less is more.

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3 responses to “Palmetto State’s football playoffs need some layoffs”

  1. Tom Vitt says:

    Terry,
    Love the new site. Excellent coverage of non-mainstream sports like triathlon and cycling. And good article here.

    Quick fact check: Wyoming is the Cowboy State. Big Sky is the unofficial nickname for Montana.

  2. Joe says:

    Totally agree Terry. When an 0-10 team is included in the playoffs, you know the playoff “system” by the SCHSL is sham and a mockery.

  3. admin says:

    Thanks Tom, I’ve made the correction—
    Tyler

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