The days of six classes of Division I high school football in Tennessee may be numbered. Now in its fifth year of existence, the current classification plan has survived despite a great deal of criticism.
That could all change, however, when the TSSAA Board of Control revisits the issue in November 2014.
That’s the word from TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress. In an interview with Childress last week, he said the plan is still controversial and a hot topic among coaches, administrators and board members.
“I cannot gauge, based on conversations with board members, how they may vote,” he said. “I can tell you that they definitely want to look at this after we’ve been in this current classification period of two years. They have instructed us to bring it back to them.”
Anyone who follows high school football knows how confusing the new plan has been, especially when it comes time to select teams for the playoffs. Teams have been divided into three classes during the regular season and then split into six groups for the playoffs. In the four years under the new plan, major mistakes have frequently been found regarding playoff selection.
Coaches have had their own issues too, citing the unfairness of 1A, 3A and 5A teams having to compete with 2A, 4A and 6A teams, respectively, in order to gain access to the postseason.
But despite all the negative issues the new plan has brought to the sport, there are still board members who support it.
Some schools they represent have been much more successful in the postseason than they were prior to its creation.
“There are still some board members who are hesitant (to go back to the old plan) because there are schools at the 5A level that have been very successful and have expressed to board members that they do not want to go back,” Childress said.
Coaches, principals and superintendents have all been surveyed, and most prefer going back to the five-class plan that served the state from 1993 through the 2008 playoffs.
“Sixty percent of the coaches that responded to our survey recommended that we go back to five classes,” he said.
That survey was conducted this spring. A similar survey of superintendents found 59 percent of school directors also preferred the five-class plan. Principals were pretty well split 50-50 on the matter.
It’s obviously a tough decision to make.
I always found it difficult to understand why the five-class plan was changed in the first place. The old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” was cited hundreds of times after the switch four years ago.
Whatever the board decides to do next year will give people like myself plenty to talk and write about in the future. And for that, I’m thankful.