Class 6A football coaches have mixed opinions on playoff possibilities
By: Chris Harlan
Saturday, February 10, 2018 | 9:57 PM
If the WPIAL lets eight out of nine teams into the Class 6A football playoffs, then the regular season should come with a caveat.
“The ninth team should be the team that has to get a new coach every year,” Canon-McMillan coach Mike Evans said with a laugh. “Who wants to be that guy?”
The WPIAL must decide this month whether to let four, six or eight teams qualify in Class 6A. The WPIAL board will reveal the 2018 and 2019 playoff brackets Feb. 19.
Six is the consensus among coaches.
“If I were in charge, I would go with six,” Mt. Lebanon coach Mike Melnyk said. “Eight is too many; it takes away from the regular season. But I think four is too little. It would separate some teams almost immediately and make them say: ‘Geez, we're never going to get to the playoffs.' I think you want to have the carrot at the end for kids.”
Count Butler coach Eric Christy, Central Catholic's Terry Totten, Hempfield's Rich Bowen, North Allegheny's Art Walker, Norwin's Dave Brozeski and Seneca Valley's Ron Butschle among those who also would prefer six.
Christy said he doesn't like the idea of bye weeks but thought that was a better route than a four-team bracket.
Evans and Pine-Richland's Eric Kasperowicz leaned toward a four-team playoff, with so few teams, but considered six a good option.
Evans is entering his fourth season at Canon-McMillan and wants his Big Macs to earn their first playoff berth since 2008, with an emphasis on earn.
“If they take eight and we make the playoffs, then it will be: ‘They made it because eight teams out of nine (qualified),' ” Evans said. “I don't really want our first time to be in that situation.”
The Class 6A dilemma arose after the WPIAL's largest classification shrank from 14 teams to nine under the new enrollment numbers for the 2018 and '19 seasons. Four teams dropped to Class 5A and Altoona exited the WPIAL.
That leaves Butler, Canon-McMillan, Central Catholic, Hempfield, Mt. Lebanon, North Allegheny, Norwin, Pine-Richland and Seneca Valley to form one far-flung conference.
Eight teams from Class 6A qualified for the WPIAL playoffs each of the past two seasons, but that no longer seems like a realistic option.
The five other WPIAL football classifications will receive either eight or 16 playoff qualifiers.
“We're in a unique situation in 6A,” Brozeski said. “We only have one conference. We only have nine teams.”
The WPIAL has two alternatives:
Four teams qualify for a two-round playoff with a bye week either before or after.
Six teams qualify for a three-round bracket that awards byes to the top two seeds. In an NFL-style playoff, the third seed faces the sixth, and the fourth faces the fifth.
However, if the WPIAL does adopt a six-team bracket, the top two seeds should be allowed to host those second-round matchups rather than use neutral sites, Walker said.
“They deserve it,” he said. “I know you get a bye, but by earning a home game, that also creates revenue for your athletic department.”
Whatever decision the WPIAL makes will last for only two years before the classifications are realigned again in 2020. Some coaches are concerned that by then, the WPIAL could have even fewer schools in Class 6A.
The state overall has 94 teams in Class 6A, but 70 are clustered in the four PIAA districts that form the southeastern corner.
District 1, which includes suburban Philadelphia, has 33 teams alone.
If eastern schools continue to increase enrollment, that ultimately pushes schools in other districts lower in classification.
“I am concerned from the standpoint that (the six-class format) is not going to go away,” Walker said. “You know it's not going to change because of the size of school districts out east.”
Said Evans: “In two years, more could drop off. What are we going to do when we have seven or six teams? It's killing us over here.”