By the time you read this, our NRHEG Panther football team will have already played its first playoff game, this past Tuesday in New Richland against our rivals from the north, WEM. Normally this would be a great thing; we finished ahead of them and get to play here rather than Waterville.
However, there’s something screwy with the seeding system in MSHSL football. It’s all based on something called your QRF score. If you look up how that is calculated, good luck; let me know if you understand it. Teams get a certain amount of points for winning a game, depending on what class their opponent is in and how good that team is; the same goes into a loss. The actual numbers assigned to those categories are top secret.
So let’s look at Class AA, Section 2 – that’s our section. Maple River finished as the first seed, with a record of 6-2, same as us, except they beat us in the finale. Kenyon-Wanamingo finished as the second seed, with a record of 7-1. I’m sure the reaction of KW fans is that they have a better record and should be #1, but the QRF penalizes them for playing a number of opponents in Class A. We’re #3 at 6-2 with Blue Earth #4 at 5-3. So far, so good, unless you’re a Knights fan.
LCWM is #5 at 3-5 with WEM at #6 at 4-4. If you’re WEM, you might be upset at that. Even though the Knights beat the Buccaneers earlier this year, WEM still finished ahead by a game. Their QRF scores are very close, so I’m sure a tiebreaker came into play here, but that’s all over the head of this English major as well.
There used to be a points system in place, where you got so many points for winning and only got points for losing if you played a team in a higher class. The problem in those days was that Triton always played one more AAA school than we did, based on their conference, so we could’ve finished with identical records and would have always fallen behind them in section rankings.
I’ve long believed in the idea of section football schedules. Since the MSHSL decided to essentially do away with conferences and put teams in districts, we don’t play many traditional Gopher Conference foes anyway. (These districts are a joke too; there are 10 teams in our district, so you never play them all. What does a district championship even mean?) As it is now, some teams in our section only play one section foe, while others play most of their schedule against teams from our section. This hardly creates equality when it comes to seeding.
Would it make sense to play everyone in your football section? Most sections have eight teams, so that would be 7 out of 8 games needed. That would allow you the ability to schedule one foe that you might have lost in all this reshuffling, such as Blooming Prairie for us. This would be a pretty straightforward way to determine rankings for playoffs. If two teams finish tied, the head-to-head matchup would break the tie. Since everyone in the section played each other, it would probably sort itself out nicely. I’m sure there would be flaws in that system too, but anything would be better than the mess we see every year with the QRF method.
QRF is used for basketball as well, though I know we try to get most of our sub-section teams on our schedules. The area of basketball playoffs that has nagged at me for years is that if you earn a top-two seed, you only get one game at home. The second round of the playoffs is at a neutral site, Mankato East High School for us.
There’s really something to a home-court advantage. You don’t have to get on a bus, which always takes a little something away. Your fans will likely be better represented because it’s easier to get to the game. It’s your locker room and your playing surface and you know your announcer won’t butcher your name.
But rather than reward the best teams with two home games, our section ships them off to another town. I’ve heard the reasons for this: it’s a larger venue and coaches get to see their future opponent in person. I just don’t buy it.
A packed gym in New Richland is better than a potentially half full gym in Mankato. Our fans are known to travel very well, but it’s not so with everybody. One reason Mankato East is full when we play there is many of our fans stay for both games. And with easy access to other teams’ game tapes, coaches should be well-prepared for whoever they play, even if they haven’t seen them live. And I imagine the section has to pay Mankato East for the use of their facilities.
The most egregious example of why this is a bad idea happened a few years back. The #2-#3 game was between Hayfield and Southland…in Mankato. Those teams had to drive a very long distance. It would have saved a lot of gas money for both the school and fans to just play at the high seed. If you’re in the championship, you don’t mind the distance so much going to play on the big court at MSU.
Things change all the time in high school sports. Maybe these will change and maybe they won’t. Regardless, I hope you’ll join me in rooting on our local teams. Go, Panthers!
Word of the Week: This week’s word is bushwa, which means nonsense, as in, “The KW fans thought it was bushwa that they had the best record but the #2 seed.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!