The long awaited, extensively debated, publicly pressured, greatly anticipated schedule decision from the OSAA. What do we have? All three sports seasons, sort of. Champions will be crowned, sort of. Multi-sport athletes will be able to play all their sports without conflict, sort of.
The OSAA executive committee did their best here; nobody is questioning that. It’s an impossible task to completely nail the scheduling of a sports calendar in the midst of an ever changing, seemingly ever worsening, pandemic of historical scope. The coronavirus has brought the most wholesale changes to American society since at least 9/11, and possibly since the end of World War Two. We live in truly historic, unprecedented times. There was no playbook for the OSAA exec committee to draw from except for examples set by other states. However, it’s easy to find holes in the OSAA’s plan in comparison to other states for the simple reason that one of the most heralded and supported plans in the country came from just the other side of the Columbia River in Washington.
The WIAA plan was very well thought out, very well structured, and threaded the needle between security and flexibility just about as well as anyone could hope to. Is it perfect? There are aspects that could certainly be challenged so no. The acceptance of a 5 game regular season in football in order to have a full playoff could be seen by some as a huge disadvantage for teams with new coaching staffs or programs on the rise who need time to click. A five game regular season is fine for established programs with established systems and established cultures, but it could effectively push out the development of young/building programs for a whole season. Despite that potential hole and others, the WIAA plan is widely accepted as a model for what other associations could or should do.
Looking at the OSAA plan, you can tell there was an influence of both the WIAA and CIF (California) models at some level, whether intentional or not. Pushing the start of any sports until late December mimics the California model of pushing everything to January, while the segmentation and condensing of sports into a timeframe stretching into late June (beyond the end of the school year) is a characteristic of the Washington plan.
The OSAA plan did a lot of positive things. We have a schedule that gets every sport in, there is a buffer for the “second wave” anticipated in the winter, and there’s an understanding that it’s not just kids playing sports that has to be in the “top priority” tier. Despite that, there are some big unanswered questions and potentially huge unintended consequences that could come of this that the OSAA will have to come up with solutions for in the next few months. We spent the afternoon talking to ADs, coaches, parents, and players about today’s news, and along with our own insight, here are just a few powder kegs that could blow up in the near future:
1 – The “culmination week” situation is very vague. The general idea right now is for football this means a BCS-style championship game setup, where after the seven game regular season the two top ranked teams play each other in a championship game. No playoff, no automatic bids and at large qualifiers; just number one and number two by composite Colley and RPI ranking for all the marbles. That could be a huge problem. This is the break down of #1 and #2 seeds success in the playoffs football wise over the last 7 years 1A-6A:
2013 – 6/12 teams made championship, one #1 vs. #2 championship matchup, 1/ 6 championships won by #1 or #2
2014 – 7/12 teams made championship, two #1 vs. #2 championship matchups, 4/6 championships won by #1 or #2
2015 – 3/12 teams made championship, zero #1 vs. #2 championship matchups, 2/6 championships won by #1 or #2
2016 – 6/12 teams made championship, one #1 vs. #2 championship matchup, 3/6 championships won by #1 or #2
2017 – 5/12 teams made championship, zero #1 vs. #2 championship matchups, 4/6 championships won by #1 or #2
2018 – 5/12 teams made championship, zero #1 vs. #2 championship matchups, 4/6 championships won by #1 or #2
2019 – 8/12 teams made championship, three #1 vs. #2 championship matchups, 3/6 championships won by #1 or #2
The problem with flatly assigning the top two ranked teams after seven games into the championship game is that it discredits the entire process of picking a champion. Assume for a moment that despite going 7-0, Hidden Valley’s RPI is low enough to where Marist and Baker (who for sake of argument are both 6-1) end up ahead of them and play for the title. Hidden Valley is by no means a shoe-in state champion, but placing their right to compete for a state championship at the mercy of the historically faulty mid-season RPI and Colley ratings is a situation ripe for disaster. College football realized a playoff is better than leaving that third and possibly fourth team out to dry, but the OSAA seems all too willing to repeat a mistake already made by others. An explanation on why this course was taken should be considered necessary, and publicized quickly. The WIAA, as mentioned earlier, is going with a five game regular season coupled with a full playoff bracket.
Just two years ago #5 Santiam and #12 Kennedy faced off in the 2A state championship. Under the current proposal, the championship game in 2018 would’ve instead been #1 Monroe (lost in semis to Santiam) vs. #2 Sheridan (lost in second round to Kennedy).
This coincides with the question: what exactly does a “culmination week” mean for teams not #1 or #2? Bowl style neutral site games? Will #3 play #4 in a “third place game”? There are a lot of interpretations to be made from the announcement today, which leads a lot of this to be speculative and not concrete.
Part two posted tomorrow. Many more potential hurdles to go over, and interpretations to be detailed.