When it comes to scheduling games, Class 6A football – home to 31 of the metro area’s most successful and largest programs – needs a new playbook.
Activities directors said Thursday that discussions of scheduling regular season games for 2019 and 2020 have reached an impasse and asked the Minnesota State High School League board of directors for help.
Minnetonka’s Ted Schultz and Lakeville North’s Mike Zweber, along with support from board member and Prior Lake activities director Russ Reetz, recommended a new model: Aligning MSHSL sections with subdistricts in football. This would allow for scheduling regular season games with teams that are in the same section. And that means more common opponents and truer seeding results.
Thursday’s discussion could trigger board action at the Dec. 6 meeting.
Class 6A began with the 2012 season and created more competitive balance within the classes – and greater scheduling flexibility. A rising Maple Grove program sought a tougher schedule and took on the likes of Eden Prairie and Minnetonka.
However, the subdistricts became imbalanced. This year, 27 of the Class 6A schools in the Metro District are broken into four uneven subdistricts: South (nine teams), East (seven), North (a half dozen 6A teams plus 5A Osseo) and West (five).
The remaining four 6A teams, Armstrong, Buffalo, Forest Lake and Hopkins, are in other subdistricts. Coon Rapids dropped to 5A, leaving 6A one team short of the desired 32.
A number of schools scheduling outside their sections made seeding difficult, an unintended consequence that ADs hope to correct.
“The 31-team tournament guarantees the best two 6A schools will play in the state championship game,” Reetz said. “So that’s been good. But the problem with the format is that if you don’t play the teams you seed against in the regular season, it’s difficult to get accurate seeds.”
Using Maple Grove as an example, the Crimson’s brutal schedule includes zero games against fellow Section 5 teams. When it comes time to seed, that’s a challenge. How does the Crimson compare to teams with better records against lesser competition?
“It’s difficult to prove to schools you didn’t play that you’re actually better than them even though your record doesn’t show it,” Reetz said.
Timing is also a concern when it comes to aligning MSHSL sections with subdistricts in football.
In June, football leadership in 6A attempted to schedule the 2019 and 2020 regular season schedules based on the projected subdistricts. Talks stalled. But even if those discussions were fruitful, another challenge awaited. The MSHSL’s classifications aren’t decided until March 2019.
That timeline became an issue in March 2017, when Osseo dropped from 6A to 5A. But by that time, the Orioles were already locked into an 6A slate of regular season games.
“The general feeling is that is working backwards,” Reetz said.
To prevent that dilemma, Schultz and Zweber recommended looking at the 27 base schools with enrollments well over the 6A cutoff. Divide them evenly into four subdistricts, they said. And when numbers are determined in March for the schools on the fringes of the enrollment cutoff, add the next largest five schools to get four subdistricts of eight and Voila – a 32-team bracket.
And by mostly playing within their subdistricts, teams can be seeded for in their sections based more on common opponents than conjecture.