WPIAL reveals 2 playoff formats with 8- or 4-team football brackets

Friday, July 31, 2020 | 10:09 PM

The WPIAL revealed two football playoff options Friday, one if there are state playoffs this fall and another if they’re canceled in advance.

Here’s the reason: If the PIAA championships are held in November as expected, the WPIAL playoffs must fit into a tight window between the regular season and state tournament. If the PIAA cancels its state playoffs over covid-19 concerns, that tight window is gone, but the PIAA would then force districts to shut down football sooner — meaning even smaller WPIAL brackets.

“If they’re not having a tournament, the reason they’re not is because they don’t believe it’s safe,” WPIAL executive director Amy Scheuneman said. “They’d want everyone to end sooner.”

One option has mostly eight-team brackets. The other has only four teams.

Unfortunately, Heinz Field isn’t a realistic option either way.

If PIAA playoffs are held in November

WPIAL Class 5A, 4A, 3A, 2A and A will have an eight-team bracket with finals Nov. 13 or 14.

The top two teams from each conference and two wild cards will qualify in 5A, 4A, 3A and A. In Class 2A, the top two teams from each conference qualify.

Class 6A has a four-team bracket with WPIAL finals Nov. 6 or 7.

If PIAA playoffs are canceled in advance

Every WPIAL classification will have a two-round, four-team playoff with finals Nov. 6. In Class 5A, 4A, 3A and A, the three conference champions and one wild card qualify.

Class 2A takes only the four conference champions.

Class 6A qualifies the top four teams in the standings.

Gardner Points would determine wild cards in both scenarios.

The PIAA championships are still scheduled in December for now, but the games are expected to move to Thanksgiving weekend, Scheuneman said.

The PIAA approved the move at Wednesday’s board meeting.

That would push the WPIAL playoffs earlier on the calendar and away from the late-November date it reserved at Heinz Field. But that’s not the only reason Heinz Field isn’t an option.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration has a ban on spectators at high school sporting events because of the coronavirus. Even if that’s eventually lifted, the state currently has a 250-person limit on outdoor gatherings.

With few or no ticket sales, Heinz Field isn’t an affordable option, Scheuneman said.

“We’re working with them for next year,” she said. “But this year is not a normal year.”

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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