A fan of high school sports, I read the football schedule for tonight’s 1st round of the North Carolina playoffs. I was especially interested to see what team and where my local team, Mooresville, would be tonight. I was surprised to see Mooresville’s opponent had a losing record, and that caused me to look at all 51 games from 4AA to 1A. According to my count of the games in the Observer, 19 teams in the playoffs have losing records, and 20 teams in the playoffs have only a 6-5 record, one team has a 5-5 record. The high school I attended, A.L. Brown, has a 6-5 record and has the pleasure of travelling to Asheville to compete against the home team, Reynolds, which has a record of 10-1. That could be a long bus ride home for the Wonders.
Football season is now going into its 4th month, which began in the heat of August. Now, if a team continues to win, it could play, depending upon the division it is in, five more games, continuing almost to Christmas. That is half of a player’s school year, and a full quarter of a calendar year.
I object to the system that determines points earned for playoff eligibility. Clearly, when a team with a losing record or a marginally winning record is in any playoff, something is not as good as it should be.
As a coach, I always used the end of a season as a bridge to the next one. Yet, when my team has a poor record and is forced, by state edict, to play a much more powerful team, that probable loss lingers. For instance, Burns with a 4-7 record is playing Huss with a 11-0 record, at Huss. That game predicts a long ride home for Burns. Some games, such as Lake Norman with a 3-8 record playing at West Charlotte with a 6-5 record, defies the reason for high school athletes. Yes, I know that any game can be won, but winning and advancing one more week is not, in my mind, the reason we offer sports in high school.
I suspect that the root of this playoff scheduling is money. Games on Friday night mean admission fees and concessions sold. If so, then our high school athletes are being sold out for the benefit of a system. I hope I am wrong, but last year, my first year back in North Carolina, I saw the same system.
Every team in the listed schedule has played at least ten games, but most have played eleven. That is a lot of practices and games and opportunities for character building and team building and learning that diligence will have benefits.
It seems to me that, as Mary Poppins says, “Enough’s as good as a feast.”