OSSAA changes 2020 football playoff format, everybody who wants in, is in
The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association announced Tuesday its updated playoff modifications for the 2020 season.
Because of the amount of canceled district games, every team in the state has an opportunity to qualify for the playoffs.
“Ultimately, I believe what they were trying to accomplish was they didn’t want anybody to not make the playoffs because of canceled games that were out of their control and I totally support that,” Jenks coach Keith Riggs said. “You would hate for any team, whether it was them canceling or another team canceling to not make the playoffs, so from that standpoint, I am glad they included all the teams for the playoffs this year.”
Here’s a breakdown of the modifications, why they’re happening and what to expect as we get closer to gold balls being handed out.
Why the change?
“The cancellations of multiple games during the regular season has caused a concern regarding the accuracy of seedings of each district entering the playoff series. Schools needing to make up multiple canceled contests and the concerns from member schools regarding playing multiple contests in a relatively short time frame was also a factor to considering modifying the current OSSAA plan. Adding a ‘play-in round’ so that all schools may, if they desire, qualify for the playoff series can address potential inaccuracies in the seeding process.”
To facilitate possible seeding scenarios, all districts will begin ranking teams in their district beginning the weekend of Oct. 23 through the OSSAA Rankings platform. The ranking process would include three rankings beginning the weekend of Oct. 23, the second ranking during the weekend of Oct. 30 and last ranking concluding the weekend of Nov. 6. Rankings will open each Friday at noon and close at noon on Saturday. Coaches will rank teams in their district each week. The rankings following Week 10 will be used to seed the teams in the play-in round.
“You can find fault with any potential seeding issue when you are in the situation we are in this year,” Riggs said. “This is certainly one approach. I can only speak for us and our district, I believe all the coaches are going to be fair and whether you go by wins or rankings, I think you are going to get pretty close to the same thing either way. Ultimately, you have to win four games in the playoffs to win it all, it doesn’t matter where you end up in the final rankings.”
Districts that have not canceled any district games would use the seeding process for advancement from the OSSAA Football Manual. “Flagged districts”, districts that have had canceled games, could choose to use the ranking process to determine final district places for advancement. A majority of the schools within each district may elect to use the ranking process through the OSSAA Rankings site. District Chairman of currently flagged districts must notify OSSAA by 10 am on Friday, Oct. 23 that the flagged district has chosen to use the ranking process. Absent notification by 10 am on Oct. 23, the district will use the flagged district standing for seeding advancement by default. (Districts that are not currently flagged but become flagged after Oct. 23, will have until 10 a.m. Friday of the week they become flagged to notify OSSAA of their intention to use the ranking process for seeding advancement. Absent a notification, the district will use the modified seeding process for districts that have had games canceled.)
“Given our circumstances, there is no perfect way to seed teams,” Riggs said. “Some teams have canceled games, some teams don’t. They have offered two approaches and I think that is probably the best we can do. Hopefully, we will all be healthy when we get to the playoffs and be able to have a good playoff run for everybody involved.”
Week 19 in the OSSAA calendar (the 11th week of the football season) would be designated as the date for a “play-in round.” Games will be scheduled on a Friday or Saturday based on the availability of officiating crews. Teams may mutually agree to move the game to Thursday. All member schools currently in district play would be offered an opportunity to join the playoff bracket. Play-in games would be paired between Districts 1 and 2; 3 and 4; 5 and 6; 7 and 8. Teams would be paired (crossing districts) with 1-8, 2-7, 3-6, 4-5 with the higher seed hosting. (Member schools may “opt-out” of the play-in round by notifying the District Chairman as soon as possible; deadline of noon on Nov. 7. District Chairman will notify OSSAA by 1 p.m. on November 7 what teams have opted out.)
Determining home teams
The play-in round is designated as Round 1. The higher district seed shall host in Round 1. The district champion shall host in Round 2 if the district champion advances. Determining host teams in all classes for Round 3 shall follow the criteria listed in Board Policy in the OSSAA Football Manual XI. STATE PLAY-OFF SERIES, letter D. (Classes 2A, A and B shall use the same criteria for Round 4.) Neutral sites will be used for semifinal rounds. Championship contests in all 11-man classifications will be played at UCO.
A team that cannot play a non-championship playoff game on the scheduled date due to a COVID situation will be eliminated from the series. That team’s opponent in the preceding round will be offered the opportunity to fill that line on the bracket on the scheduled date. If the preceding opponent declines the opportunity or there is no proceeding opponent as in the case of a bye, the remaining team will advance to the next line. State Championship final games issues with the COVID will be handled by OSSAA staff.
State championship dates
Adding the play-in round, moves the state championships dates for Class 5A, 4A, 3A and C to the weekend of December 11 and 12. Class 2A, A and B would then be on the weekend of December 18 and 19. Classes 6A and 6A-1 would remain the weekend of December 4 and 5.
Modifying end of season policy
The football manual states that the football season will terminate with week 18 of the OSSAA calendar or a school’s elimination from the OSSAA Football Playoff Series. This year due to the cancellations of many regular season games, member schools that were not able to play 10 regular season varsity games may complete their 10-game varsity schedule up through the date of the championship game in their classification.
Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association Associate Director Mike Whaley spoke with members of the media via Zoom teleconference Tuesday morning discussing the OSSAA’s changes to football playoffs this season.
Here are some of the main points Whaley discussed Tuesday:
Every team is eligible for the playoffs. There will be a play-in round the first week of the playoffs with every team eligible to play. Those who want to play must report to the district chairman by noon Nov. 7, who will then report to the OSSAA.
Teams can remain playing regular season games. Because so many games were canceled, teams in every classification will be able to play regular-season contests until their classification’s championship game. Even those who lose in the playoffs will be able to make up regular-season games if teams wanted to.
Teams will be able to play up to 10 regular-season games and have until their classification’s championship game to do so.
If a team has COVID-19 issue and can’t play, it will be eliminated. The only exception is for state championships. In addition, if Team A beats Team B, but Team A gets COVID and can’t play Team C in the next round, Team B could advance even if it loses.
Play-in games will not change seeding. If a team opts out of a play-in game, say a 6-seed in Class 2A, the third-seeded opponent would get a bye and advance to the next round. The 7th- and 8th-seeded teams would remain against their opponents, meaning some top-seeded teams could play play-in games while those third and fourth in their district may have byes.
What does this mean?
The playoffs are adding a week. Every team is eligible to play, if they elect to opt-in, and there will be a play-in week before the playoff schedule gets underway.
Teams who have COVID issues in non-championship rounds will be eliminated. OSSAA staff will handle issues if a championship is affected.
Individual districts will seed their teams the next three weeks through the end of the regular season to help with seeding for the play-in round.