Brentwood High School won District 11-AAA but is a No. 8 seed playing on the road in Round 1 of the TSSAA football playoffs Friday.
District 6-AA champion Tyner had to open at eventual state champion Alcoa last year and opens this year at Polk County, another high-ranked district champion.
In upper East Tennessee, District 1-AAA rivals Daniel Boone and Sullivan South will play in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs at Daniel Boone, although Sullivan South had a better region record and won their regular-season meeting.
Yet at least those schools are in the playoffs. Rhea County and its coach, Jason Fitzgerald, wonder just where they went wrong. The Golden Eagles finished 5-5 overall but had the same District 5-AAA record (4-2) as Soddy-Daisy and beat the Trojans. Soddy-Daisy is in and hosting a game Friday, while Rhea is packing away gear.
TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress told the Times Free Press that he was pleased with improvements over last year when brackets had to be redrawn to correct numerous mistakes.
“Everything ran much smoother than last year,” he told Stephen Hargis.
Well, guess what, Bernard. There was no other way it could’ve gone, and you still have problems to address.
Let’s look at Tyner’s situation. There is no way that two district champions should be playing in the first round. Tyner, a Class 3A school, won District 6-AA, which has six 4A teams and fellow 3A playoff participant Howard, yet the Rams must visit the District 5-AA champion. Between them, Tyner and Polk County have won 17 straight games.
The quadrant that includes Tyner and Polk also includes perennial champion Alcoa, Christian Academy of Knoxville and Loudon from District 4-AA plus 6-AA runner-up Howard. That has to be the most overloaded quadrant in the state, regardless of classification.
Now, get this: There was evidently some swapping out of teams regardless of geography. That’s the accusation, at least, leveled by Doug Fritz at the Johnson City Press.
“The TSSAA pulled the old ‘switcheroo’ — benefiting Knox Catholic and Anderson County — and sent the Irish to Quadrant No. 2, where they get a home game against Shelbyville instead of traveling to play Daniel Boone,” Fritz wrote. “In 2009 the TSSAA placed Anderson County in Quadrant No. 2 and Knox Catholic in Quadrant No. 1 based on the same ‘dots on a map’ principle that applies this year. However, Anderson County was moved to Quadrant No. 1 this year, giving it a No. 2 seed and dropping Daniel Boone to No. 3 — thus forcing Boone to play a team it hasn’t beaten in 12 tries dating back to 1999.
If Catholic belonged in Quadrant No. 1 last year and Anderson County in No. 2, did the school buildings physically get up and move since then? Remember: dots on a map; and dots don’t change their spots.”
In Knoxville, Bearden lost to Farragut but received a No. 4 seed while Farragut was a No. 6.
“There’s things [the TSSAA] needs to seriously look at,” Farragut coach Eddie Courtney told the Knoxville News Sentinel.
Childress fell back on the geography defense.
To The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville he said, “It’s geography. It has nothing to do with who’s stronger or who’s not.”
And to the Times Free Press: “We’ve had minimal calls. So much of this is based on geography, and you can’t always avoid having good teams open up against each other.”
Yes, you can.
Do away with the geography. Cut the state in half — East is East and West is West. Seed the teams in each half 1 through 16 (perhaps adding more weight for district championships) and have the top eight host the bottom eight: 1 vs. 16, 2 vs. 15, 3 vs. 14, etc. As the brackets are pared, the highest-seeded team would host until it was time to head for the championship game in Cookeville.
And while you’re pondering that move, cut the number of teams advancing to the playoffs. Either cut each playoff bracket to 16 teams total or trim the number of Division I (non-financial-aid) playoff classifications from six back to three, four at the most.
There are a number of coaches who privately question the number of teams in the playoffs each year and the number of playoff classifications.
Of course, the more teams and the more classifications, the more money that floods into the TSSAA coffers. Of course, to offset the higher travel expenses teams would incur, the TSSAA could pay so many cents per mile to the traveling team — like Georgia does — before shoving its 50 percent share from each postseason game into its own oversized piggy bank.
Contact Ward Gossett at email@example.com or 423-886-4765.
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...