High School Sports

Change coming to Florida high school football playoffs in 2017?

Chaminade-Madonna coach Jason Milgrom talks about the FHSAA's proposed changes to the football playoffs

Chaminade-Madonna football coach Jason Milgrom talks about how the FHSAA could change the longstanding high school football playoffs in Florida on Thurs., May 12, 2016.
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Chaminade-Madonna football coach Jason Milgrom talks about how the FHSAA could change the longstanding high school football playoffs in Florida on Thurs., May 12, 2016.

High school football in Florida, at least when it comes to the postseason, may be changing soon.

The Florida High School Activities Association, the governing body for prep football in the state, is proposing changes to decide which teams advance into the postseason.

As it stands now and will for the coming season, individual schools are placed into districts in one of eight classifications. Each district champion and second place team move on to the regional playoffs.

Under the FHSAA’s new proposal, district play will be eliminated and teams will be free to schedule any 10 games it desires.

The catch is, teams will be given points based on their strength of schedule. The top eight teams in each region throughout the eight classifications will be seeded based on the amount of points they have accrued and averaged based on a minimum eight game schedule.

The better teams one plays, the more points one acquires. The current proposal awards 50 points for a victory over a team with eight victories or more or 35 points for losing to a team with at least eight wins.

Playing a team with fewer victories earns fewer points. Bonus points will be awarded for playing up in classification.

At the end of the 11-week season – teams would schedule a maximum of 10 games with one week off – the points would be calculated and the playoff teams and regional seedings announced, the FHSAA hopes, in a made-for-TV special broadcast statewide.

“We think this would be very exciting,” FHSAA football administrator Frank Beasley said. “We would make every week count. There would be no more having districts wrapped up by the seventh or eighth week.”

The FHSAA is currently searching out opinions from coaches and athletic directors throughout the state and hope to present it to its board of directors in June before going before its athletic directors’ advisory board later in the fall.

The new format – which the FHSAA admits needs tweaking – could be approved for 2017 as soon as this football season.

“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback in regards to some of the changes, but as I’ve shared with everyone, this is still in its infant stages,’’ Frank Beasley said.

“The particulars haven’t been finalized. There’s a lot more vetting to do, more input to get from our board of director and AD advisory board. I’ve heard a lot of positives and one of the biggest is fitting your schedule to what fits your program best.”

Coaches and administrators throughout South Florida have their concerns with the proposal although all seem to be interested in seeing the final result.

Although big schools in Miami-Dade and Broward counties may not be affected much as their scheduling would mostly be taken care of either by the Greater Miami Athletic Conference or the Broward County Athletic Association, smaller, private schools worry about building a 10-game schedule without the benefit of having built-in district games.

Chaminade-Madonna coach Jason Milgrom says under the current proposal, schools from larger classifications wouldn’t have much incentive to play his Class 3A team because it wouldn’t offer them bonus points for doing so.

“I like how some teams which didn’t get in under our current format would get in under this new one,’’ Milgrom said. “That’s a definite plus. There are powerhouse districts and weaker ones, so some teams get left out. But for us, as a 3A school, we can play with a lot of 8A schools.

“What does it matter if you’re playing up [in class] or down? I think that needs to be tweaked. I’m pretty sure, in 3A, there are five or six teams who can play with anyone in the state.’’

Cheryl Golden, the outgoing director of the GMAC, says the same problem would exist for Dade powerhouse Booker T. Washington. Although the Tornadoes have won four consecutive state championships, as a 4A school, they would get bonus points for playing a higher-classification team yet, say a Class 8A team, wouldn’t receive any points for scheduling the Tornadoes.

We think this would be very exciting. We would make every week count. There would be no more having districts wrapped up by the seventh or eighth week.

Frank Beasley, FHSAA football administrator

Golden contends teams should get extra points to give them incentive to play teams such as Booker T. and Chaminade.

“One negative I see is some schools will never play outside of their neighborhood,’’ Golden said. “Other schools will have to play all over the place just to get games.”

The FHSAA realizes changes will be made to its proposal before it would go into effect. The underlying reason for change, Beasley said, is to ensure the top teams in Florida make it to the playoffs. Under the current setup, that may not be the case as not all districts have the same amount of schools competing for the same number of playoff berths.

Class 7A brought an example of that last year.

In 14-7A, just three teams – state power St. Thomas Aquinas, Blanche Ely and Fort Lauderdale -- were in the running for two spots.

Ely, for instance, could have made the playoffs by going 1-9 as long as its one win was over Fort Lauderdale (3-6). The Tigers did indeed beat the Flying L’s and roared into the postseason sporting a 2-8 record.

Other local districts in the very same classificiation had much more competition.

District 15-7A featured six teams (McArthur went 7-3 but finished third and didn’t make it) while Miami-Dade’s 16-7A had nine teams gunning for two spots.

Ronald Reagan and Miami Springs, despite having winning records, weren’t playoff teams because Miami Sunset won the district with Mater taking the runner-up position.

Under the new format, all of those teams would be lumped together with the top eight teams in the region – regardless of previous district assignment – having a chance at the playoffs.

“We’re definitely open minded if this is in the best interest of all the schools affiliated with the FHSAA,” said Aquinas coach Roger Harriott, whose team won the Class 7A state title in his first year at the helm.

“This is a new structure that definitely needs some modifying. We want to make sure all the kids have the best possible opportunities to compete. For the most part, humans are creatures of habit and all we’ve known is districts. This is a new option. It has pros and cons and I’m a little reluctant to support it until things are revised and is more thought out because it’s going to affect schools long-term.”

How teams make the playoffs will require some mathematics. It appears the state will remain at eight classificiations due to all the defections of private schools to independent conferences.

Within those eight classificiations will be four regions.

District play would be eliminated and tougher scheduling would be rewarded through a point system.

For example, if a team -- lets say McArthur -- plays a team, say South Broward, which ended its season 8-2. If McArthur won that game, it would get 50 points. It would receive 35 points for losing, regardless of the final score.

If McArthur beat a team that finished 3-7, it would be credited just 35 points for that victory. If the Mustangs lost to a 3-7 team, it would only receive 20 points.

Teams will also receive bonus points for playing above their classification. So, if a Class 3A team plays a team from 6A, it would receive three extra points regardless of the outcome. There is no bonus nor penalty for playing a school from a lower classification.

At the end of the 11-week season, each team's point total would be calculated and the regional playoffs would be seeded from first to eighth within each region within each classification.

The team in each region with the most points would be the top seed and play host to regional playoff games throughout regional play.

“We’ve received some great ideas and we’re going to continue to poke and prod at this,” Beasley said.

“We’re trying to make this as foolproof as we can. Not everything is perfect. We know that. Until we go out there and do this, you don’t know what the pitfalls will be.’’


The Florida Athletic Coaches Association’s 27th annual All-Star Softball Classic will be held May 20 at Ocala’s Forest High School.

The South team is made up mostly of Miami-Dade and Broward county players. The South will open against the West All-Stars at 6 p.m. with the winner playing in the championship game on May 21 at noon.

The South All-Star team includes Julianna Lorente and Gabriella Gonzalez from Lourdes, Brianna Stella, Brooke Stock and Thais Gonzalez from St. Thomas Aquinas, Zaria Hall and Thea Rodriguez from South Dade, Western’s Kim George, Pace’s Sofia Dominguez, South Plantation’s Emma Maitland, Palmetto’s Amanda Gulieta, Florida Christian’s Faith Vasquez and Melissa Perez from Ferguson.

Gulliver’s Mark Schusterman will coach the South All-Stars with St. Thomas Aquinas’ Bryan Baucom and Mickey Lynch serving as assistants.

If you go

What: The state baseball finals.

When: Through Saturday (Classes 4A-1A); Wednesday through May 21 (Classes 9A-5A).

Where: jetBlue Park, 11500 Fenway South Drive, Fort Myers.

Admission: $9 per day; Parking: $10 for cars; $50 for fan buses.

Thursday’s results – Class 2A final: Lake Worth Trinity Christian vs. Jacksonville Christ’s Chruch, inc.; Class 1A final: Chiefland vs. Mayo Lafayette, inc.

Friday’s schedule – Class 4A semifinals: Jacksonville Providence vs. Fort Myers Bishop Verot, 10 a.m.; Calvary Christian vs. Tampa Berkeley Prep, 1; Class 3A semifinals: Tallahassee Maclay vs. Fort Myers Canterbury, 4; Fort Pierce John Carroll vs. Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic, 7.

Saturday’s schedule – Class 4A final: 4:05; Class 3A final: 7:35.