High School Sports

Here are the changes coming to high school sports playoffs

East Wake warriors visited the South Johnston trojans in a high school football game on October 27, 2017.
East Wake warriors visited the South Johnston trojans in a high school football game on October 27, 2017. newsobserver.com

After a mathematical formula kept an 8-3 football team out of the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs in favor of teams that went 3-7 and 3-8, something had to change. The NCHSAA approved three adjustments, which go into effect immediately, to how teams will qualify for the postseason, including how the MaxPreps formula will be calculated.

Conference finish will matter: To effectively end a situation where Trask (8-3) sat at home, one spot behind James Kenan (3-7), the NCHSAA will select wild-cards based on conference finish, but they’ll be seeded as one collective wild-card group, regardless of whether they finish third, fourth or fifth.

Once the automatic bids – 1-seeds and 2-seeds and others that earn automatic split-conference spots – are determined, then 3-seeds will get in, followed by 4-seeds and possibly 5-seeds depending on how many spots are left.

If there are not enough spots left for all 4-seeds to get in, then MaxPreps rank will determine which ones round out the field. The teams who didn’t earn automatic bids will be seeded as wild-cards based on MaxPreps rank, so a 3-seed from one league may be behind a 4-seed or 5-seed from another. However, 1-seeds and 2-seeds cannot be leapfrogged.

In 4A, most 4-seeds would make the playoffs under this rule and all 3-seeds would qualify. Depending on what happens in the split conferences, as many as three 5-seeds or as little as none would make the postseason.

Split conference rules change: Call it the “South Caldwell rule” if you’d like. The board voted that split-conference teams must finish in the top three of the conference’s overall standings or have a winning record of above .500 to receive the 1-seed from its half of the standings or otherwise be seeded as a wild-card.

The change comes after 1-10 South Caldwell made the 4A football playoffs for being the “1-seed” out of two 4A teams in its split conference. If this happened again, South Caldwell would still make the playoffs, but it would have been the No. 16 seed in the 4A West instead of the No. 2.

Margin of victory ousted: Margin of victory will no longer be a component in the MaxPreps rankings, which means the San Francisco-based company that stores schedules, rosters and stats online will provide an adjusted number to the NCHSAA each week. The NCHSAA will post those adjusted rankings on its website. Margin of victory doesn’t appear to be a big factor in the rankings – South Mecklenburg made the 4A football playoffs at 2-9 despite five losses of 35 points or more.

▪ Skill development for football will now be like all other sports – you can have as many of them, with as many athletes as you’d like so long as they don’t go over time limit (90 minutes) or take place during an NCHSAA-mandated dead period – but a licensed athletic trainer or first responder must be there if the team is using protective equipment like pads or helmets. That equipment must be certified, and there is still no body-to-body contact. Previously, coaches had to either be limited to 10 days with unlimited players or unlimited days with 21 players.

▪ Neutral sites for this year’s regional championship games in basketball will be split into four cities. For the second straight year, UNC-Greensboro and Wake Forest will host West finals. The East finals will return to Fayetteville State for a second year and East Carolina for the first time since 2010. Last year’s East finals were split between Fayetteville State and nearby Methodist University.

▪ The NCHSAA is working to finalize a deal to put the dual-team wrestling championships in the Greensboro Coliseum Complex Fieldhouse, which is adjacent to the Greensboro Coliseum, where the individual wrestling championships are held.

▪ There’s a new zero-tolerance policy for “profanity of any kind, inappropriate language, racial or ethnic slurs, sexists (sic) or homophobic language.” Previously, the rule covered players directing profanity to opponents or officials. This means any kind of profanity will result in an ejection.

▪ There was discussion, but no vote, on how homeschool athletes are incorporated into other state associations.

▪ State championship ticket prices will be increased in all sports in July.

▪ No vote was given on splitting girls lacrosse into two state championships – one for 4A and one for 3A/2A/1A.