By Tom Kreager for The Tennessean
Bernard Childress expects an easier Friday night than the past six years for him and his staff when they meet in Hermitage to begin putting together the high school football playoff brackets at the conclusion of the Week 11 games.
A change back to the more traditional playoff system from the complicated Z-plan, where classifications were split from three in the regular season to six in the postseason, has helped eliminate confusion.
“It will not be anything like the nightmares we’ve had the last few years,” said Childress, the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association executive director. “Our goal, and it always depends on getting the scores in, is to be prepared to have every bracket posted by midnight Friday.
“You can imagine how different that is from past years when you worked all night and were still trying to get it down by 10 a.m. Saturday morning. This makes a big difference.”
In Classes 1A to 5A, the top four teams in each region qualify for the playoffs this year.
Teams in successive regions will be grouped together in the bracket. The top four in Region 1 will be cross-bracketed with teams in Region 2. Region 3 and 4 will be paired up and so forth through Region 8.
In Class 6A, all 32 teams automatically qualify.
Under the Z-plan, the top two teams in each district made the playoffs. The rest of the bracket was filled by teams with the best records. That forced a series of tiebreakers that kept TSSAA staff members up late figuring them out. Then, teams had to be placed geographically into quadrants.
Teams in Middle Tennessee often were left wondering if they would go in the East portion of the bracket or West because they were near the dividing line. And playoff brackets weren’t announced until late Saturday morning. Plus, there were multiple errors over the past six years.
Prior to the Z-plan, coaches knew late Friday after the final game which team they were playing in the postseason, or if they had made the playoffs. That allowed teams to begin trading game films and begin preparation for the first round of the playoffs, which is next Friday. Teams were left waiting for an official announcement the past six years.
But don’t expect everything to always be flawless despite a simpler system. Childress said there were errors under the former five-class system, but were easier to fix.
“The difference is if we made a mistake, we weren’t having two teams traveling halfway across the state to play,” Childress said. “They were all regional games. You could change that easier, and it wasn’t a big deal.”
Reach Tom Kreager at 615-278-5168 and on Twitter @Kreager.