I have an idea that should improve high school sports in New York state.
I propose that the New York State Public High School Athletic Association divide into 45 classes for playoffs. This should eliminate almost all inequity in school sizes when it comes to sectional and state competition.
I say this because there’s been some informal discussion about moving from the current five classes to six in some sports, but I think that’s a failure to recognize where this is headed. We need bold thinking.
If you want fairness, the 45-class system is the way to go. All schools will be playing opponents almost exactly the same size at their own school. As a bonus, you can start the postseason in the sectional championship game. Maybe even the state quarterfinals.
(There may be instances where teams have to play sectional semifinals, which will be stigmatizing for the teams involved and lead to much complaining about the broken system that could force this extra game — but let’s gloss over that for the moment.)
Think of the benefits. Almost every student-athlete will have the excitement of playing in a sectional championship game, or beyond. There will be hundreds of sectional- and state-level games, and at $6-10 per ticket, that should be quite a boon for the organizers.
The state’s economy should get a bump. Trophy- and plaque-makers will hire new staff to meet the demand. There will be lots of work for bus drivers ferrying kids around the state.
The people who make those road signs announcing “home of the so-and-so champions” at the city limits will be busting down walls to expand their businesses. The signs will line the sides of road as you enter town, sort of like the South of the Border signs on the way to Florida.
State basketball tournament officials will have to think outside the box. Here’s my idea: shut down the Northway from exit 18 to 19 and line it with temporary basketball courts to accommodate the 135 semifinals and finals. Thousands of student-athletes will play in the state tournament (the midnight games in the southbound lanes are always popular). And it’s all good, because everyone gets a trophy.
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Catching my drift?
There have always been concerns about the smallest schools in a given class having to play against the larger schools of that class. Yes, it is usually harder for the smaller schools to win.
Here is the underlying fact: If you divide into classes according to school size, somebody is always going to be on top, and somebody is always going to be on the bottom. Unless you go with my 45-class format, you can’t get rid of the inequity.
If five classes is so unfair, then how did we ever survive for so many years with a four-class system?
I expect that sooner or later, the state will make the move to six classes. Because it’s expedient. More plaques for everyone, more tickets to be sold, more “excitement,” the buzzword that seems to automatically justify putting more teams into the playoffs in any sport, at any level.
Parents of athletes generally won’t complain, sensing they’re that much closer to the tangible rewards that justify all that time and effort. And if any media type dares suggest that their accomplishment is watered-down, many angry letters to the editor and online comments will be written. Because our kids worked so hard for this, and how dare you insult them.
No, I don’t think going to six classes is a good idea at all. It cheapens the chase for state titles and makes a mess out of state tournaments. It’s bad enough that some state championship games now start at 10 o’clock in the morning, or earlier. With six classes, you’ll spread the games out to the point where there’s no connectivity. They’ll run like AAU events.
And sooner or later, perhaps a decade down the road, someone will suggest we should have seven classes, or maybe eight. Because some other state has eight, so how cruel is it for our kids to have only six?
Hanging over everyone’s heads will be the unspoken truth that everything is a little less meaningful.