WPIAL won’t force teams to play Week Zero games

Thursday, January 18, 2018 | 11:33 AM

Week Zero remains optional.

The WPIAL will not schedule football games for that flex week, letting schools once again decide whether to play a second scrimmage or schedule a nonconference contest.

Football schedules for next season will appear online Jan. 30.

Using Week Zero for the regular season could have given the WPIAL added playoff flexibility, potentially expanding a three-round bracket to four. Or it could have allowed a bracket to remain the same size but end a week sooner.

But the WPIAL doesn't favor that idea.

“Until we get over 90 percent of the schools using (Week Zero), I think it's probably ill-advised for us to force it upon people,” WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley said. “Last year there were (approximately) 65 percent of teams that played Week Zero. That means there are 35 percent who didn't. We're going to make them play when they don't want to play? I don't think that's the right way to go.”

The PIAA approved Week Zero before the 2016 season. The extra week allowed teams the option of scheduling a rival or finding an out-of-district matchup, if they want. Pine-Richland, for example, used it each year to play an out-of-state opponent on ESPN.

Each team will receive a nine-game schedule later this month, O'Malley said, which could include one or two nonconference games. For instance, each Class 6A team must face one Class 5A team.

What's still undecided is how many teams from each classification will qualify for the WPIAL playoffs. That decision is on hold until after the PIAA reveals updated state playoff brackets. The PIAA board meets Jan. 24.

After the state brackets are revealed, the WPIAL strategic planning committee will craft WPIAL playoff brackets. If all stays on schedule, those recommendations would be presented for WPIAL board approval Feb. 19.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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