High school tournament madness isn’t just for March anymore.
A new playoff system, approved by the Minnesota State High School League board of directors on Thursday, begins this fall for the 32 teams playing Class 6A football.
The NCAA basketball-inspired model provides each team a No. 1-8 seed in one of four sections. From there, the teams are matched up in an overall bracket randomly chosen by the league.
The 32 teams will play down to 16, then the eight that becomes the state tournament field.
The model differs from the one used the past three seasons. For example, last year Eden Prairie was given the No. 1 seed in Section 6 and began the playoffs against Shakopee, the No. 8 seed in the same section. After defeating Shakopee, Eden Prairie advanced to the crossover round against Section 3 representative Burnsville. The Eagles won again to reach the state tournament, where league officials re-seeded the final right teams.
Under the new model, a team’s path from quarterfinals to the championship game is set.
Using the Eden Prairie example, the Eagles would be a No. 1 seed but its first opponent would not be from the same section, thereby eliminating the “crossover” concept for the next round and the need to re-seed for the state tournament.
“It’s good for 6A football,” Eagan football coach Rick Sutton said. “It rewards teams for their seed but it also rewards teams that get an upset victory and play above their seed. It should create a lot of excitement.”
Adopting this new format also offers practical advantages. Randomly drawing an overall bracket after the seeding process is completed prevents coaches from influencing matchups, league associate director Kevin Merkle said. And no longer needing to re-seed the state tournament field means neutral game sites can be determined sooner.
In other league action:
• Aspects of summer football practice restrictions, including levels of contact and number of practices, were clarified. Teams and individual players cannot participate in more than 11 days of practice, with no more than four practices including contact.
• The distance of girls’ cross-country races will increase from 4,000 to 5,000 meters — the same as the boys — for the 2015-16 school year. Minnesota was one of only six states where females ran shorter races.
• Game-ending procedures in lacrosse were modified to allow state tournament games interrupted by weather to be completed at a later date rather than be declared completed games. Last spring, Blake won the championship game over Eden Prairie 11-7 in a game shortened by frequent lightning strikes. The game was suspended with 3 minutes, 41 seconds to play.