OSSAA modifies 2020 high school football playoffs

OKLAHOMA CITY – In many high school sports in Oklahoma, all teams throughout the state have the opportunity to enter the postseason regardless of the regular season record. That has not been the case with high football.

Until 2020.

Because 2020.

The Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association released its plan for modifying the playoffs for this postseason. It can be seen HERE.

OSSAA Associate Director Mike Whaley spoke Tuesday morning about the overview of what this year’s playoffs would look like and some of the rationale behind the association’s decisions.

“With the cancelation of numeorus games in district play, it caused us some concerns,” Whaley said. “First about how game could be made up. At the beginning, we didn’t think we would have as many games canceled as we have had. There have now been sometimes 20-25 games a week. Some have been made up and some haven’t.

Another concern for the OSSAA was that we had a lot of schools with multiple games to be made up and not enough time. There is provision for a school to play more than one game in a week, but with some schools this might have had to have happened repeatedly.

“We all know that playing several weeks with multiple games in the week could be challenging for the students involved.”

Whaley said the board was looking for a way to alleviate some of the pressure that might put on the schools to try to get all of those games in. The decision presented allows for every football team in the state, in each class, to have the opportunity to be a part of the playoffs.

The teams in each eight-team district would be seeded 1-8. If a school were to chose to opt out of the playoff scenario, it would have that privilege, as well.

“We settled on a play-in round which we would use to have an opportunity, should they decide to do so to participate in the playoffs this year,” Whaley said. That will be a decision that each school will get to make.

“The brackets as you can imagine would look different this year.”

The play-in round would technically be Week 11 of the football season. And it would push back the weeks of the playoffs in almost every class. The championship games in all classes but 6A would be pushed back one week. Class 6A would simply not have the bye week that is a part of its normal structure.

The play-in round would pair Districts 1 and 2, Districts 3 and 4, and in classes with eight districts, Districts 5 and 6 and Districts 7 and 8. Then the matchups would come via cross bracketing: the No. 1 seed from District 1 would play the No. 8 seed from District 2, the No. 2 seed from District 1 would play the No. 7 team from District 2, and so on.

In Class B, in which the districts have six teams, would see the district champions and district runners-up get a bye through the play-in round.

Whaley said the board was highly motivated to put together a situation in which the playoffs would happen during this football season and this was due in large part to reflecting on the many phone calls, emails and other communication that came to the OSSAA following the cancelation of the playoffs this spring.

Students and parents spoke of what they had felt when everything was stopped. Athletes shared stories about how they had worked, practiced and sacrificed to get to the point in their high school careers to be in the playoffs and how that affected them when it was taken away.

“(It was) extremely motivational in our decision,” Whaley said.

Schools will have until the Saturday of Week 10 of the season to inform the OSSAA of their decision to be a part of the modified playoff system.

Also, a team that loses a game prior to the semifinals, may still have an opportunity to advance, should the team that beat it be forced to not play the next week due to COVID.

If Team A beats Team B, but can’t play in the next round, Team B will have the opportunity to fill that slot in the bracket to take on Team C that weekend. This would not happen in the case of the championship game and the OSSAA board would handle that situation, should it arise.

Whaley said they were using criteria that is in place similar to that in which there is an ineligible player involved.