CIF-SS commissioner proposes new formula for football playoffs

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CIF-Southern Section commissioner Rob Wigod announced a proposal to change the format of the CIF-Southern Section playoffs for the 2020 football season in a press release on Thursday.

The new proposal would fix problems with teams being placed into divisions they are not a good fit for. By implementing power rankings determined by only current regular-season games, playoff divisions will be structured at the end of each season.

“I’m all for it,” said Canyon’s head football coach Joe Maiale. “It’ll improve the playoff parity. They’ve been proactive and tried a few different playoff formats in the last few years. I think they’re on the right track with this.”

The CIF-SS has had issues with its playoff format in recent years. The current divisional structure is decided at the beginning of the season and is based on a team’s performance over the previous two seasons.

Saugus head football coach Jason Bornn believes this can cause problems. With the current format, if a team had one good season recently, they get placed in a tougher division and get throttled against a powerhouse school.

The opposite is just as true. A perennial winner may have had a down year in the last two seasons and be placed in an easier division. This creates a much easier path to a division title for that team.

“It’s not a very accurate and a true representation of the current team that you have,” said Bornn. “Something’s got to be done to fix that. I’m hoping this new format will rectify that.”

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CIF-SS coaches haven’t had an opportunity to see how the new format will work, and much is left to the imagination at the moment. However, Wigod plans to host a meeting in January to use stats from this football season to demonstrate how the playoff structure will be formulated for 2020.

“It’s hard to picture what it’s going to look like,” said Golden Valley head football coach Dan Kelley. “They’re going to come out with a more specific example of it.”

The Grizzlies are one team that fell prey to a broken system. With an 8-2 record, Golden Valley missed the 2019 playoffs and a shot at a title.

“I just don’t think the formula that they used this year is in alignment with the new divisions,” Kelley said. “I think anything will be better than what’s in place right now.”

How an 8-2 team can miss the playoffs has been a hot topic around the Foothill League during the offseason. League rivalries are one thing, but those can be pushed aside when there are glaring systemic issues present.

“What transpired with Golden Valley this year, they were wronged by not going to the playoffs,” Bornn said.

One of the biggest changes in the new proposal is that teams will not know their divisions until the regular season has ended. However, the new divisional pairing system will ensure more competitive playoffs at all levels.

The power rankings will more accurately place teams of similar strength in the same playoff brackets. Power rankings are able to do this because they don’t just measure wins and losses. They measure not only the strength of a specific team, but the strength of its opponents, as well.

The new system adds a lot more complicated math but creates a fairer system for playoff placements.

“I think its definitely a step in the right direction,” Bornn said. “I think the last couple of years have revealed that these were the challenges.”

Although power rankings will play a large part in playoff brackets, it is still important for teams to win their league. Winning the Foothill League still guarantees one of its six teams a spot in the playoffs.

Commissioner Wigod explains it like this. If a division has 20 schools in it and 13 of those schools are automatic qualifiers, then you take the three highest-ranked schools that did not automatically qualify for a spot and seed them based on the power rankings.

“It’s definitely intriguing in a sense that you won’t know if you’re in the playoffs definitively unless you win your league,” Bornn said. “That’s the only surefire way to get in the playoffs. I like it. It allows for more playoff equity.”

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