MPSSAA prepare to vote on proposal to expand high school football playoffs


MARYLAND (WDVM) – On September 24, the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) will vote on a proposal to allow all 182 schools to participate in the playoffs for high school football.

A proposal that has received mixed reactions from the landscape of high school football in the state.

“What you’re doing, is kind of meeting things in the middle.” said Smithsburg Head Coach Vince Ahearn. “And they’re squeezing it down, squeezing it up a little bit.”

“I just don’t see a need to spread ourselves even thinner when crowning state champions. We’re essentially watering down the state champions, is what we’re doing.” said Quince Orchard Head Coach John Kelley.

“We just want to make the playoffs, we really don’t care how many classifications there are.” said Linganore football Head Coach Rick Conner.

Currently, there are four classifications for schools in Maryland; 4A, 3A, 2A, and 1A. The larger schools are 4A schools, and the smallest schools are 1A. Under this new proposal, two more classifications would be created by grouping smaller 4A schools, with larger 3A schools, and smaller 2A schools with larger 1A schools to create 4A-3A, and 2A-1A.

“I’m all for just any problem solving, that the administration needs to do to give these kids a full season.” said Damascus football Head Coach Josh Klotz.

The proposal was initially introduced by the MPSSAA’s Executive Committee, to offset the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. A handful of games have already been affected by the ongoing affects of the pandemic, that would otherwise hurt the teams involved, because of the existing complex points system that is used to determine qualification for the playoffs right now.

Despite the proposal’s good faith, details of how regions would be divided, and how it would affect seeding have not been shared with coaches yet.

“I have actually not seen anything sent to me.” said Josh Klotz, “So I don’t – I can’t really say. I don’t know what the regions would look like, I don’t know if there are byes. So we have a lot of questions at this point. I could see it working, but don’t know the details.”

“Everyone’s regular season schedule is already set, we’re in good shape there.” said Mike Neismith, MPSSAA Football Committee’s District 2 representative, and Paint Branch Head Football Coach. “We just need to know who is going to be in what region, and go from there in terms of playoff scouting.”

District 2 represents Montgomery County, and according to Neismith, District 2 voted against the proposal. The vote between all districts ruled in favor of the proposal, 6-3. Oakdale football Head Coach, Kurt Stein, serves as the chairman for District 1 on the Football Committee, and he confirmed that District 1 voted for the proposal. District 1 represents Washington, Frederick, Carroll, and Garrett counties.

Both Stein, and Neismith did confirm that for coaches in favor of this proposal, there were some reservations about the ruling becoming permanent.

“What they’re saying is – the vote is only for this year.” said Stein, “So we don’t know if it will be a permanent thing or not.”

“One of the unique things about football – has been that making the playoffs was earned. They expanded it, and doubled it recently. And still not everyone made it.” said Mike Neismith, pointing to the last time the MPSSAA changed the way high school football was structured.

In 2019, the Executive Committee voted to shorten the regular season by one week, to expand the postseason and allow more teams to qualify for the playoffs.

And despite another ruling ahead, it doesn’t change how teams approach their seasons, and their hunt for a state title.

“Either way you look at it, you gotta try to find a way to win five playoff games, so it’ll be the same.” said Stein.

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