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Radical TSSAA changes affect locals

Radical TSSAA changes affect locals
MURFREESBORO — The battle lines have been drawn.
Following up on a landmark decision to adopt a new system for the state’s football playoffs that will now crown six Division I champions starting in 2009, the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s Board of Control classified teams in football and all other sports Thursday.
Complicated, confusing, contradictory, the new system and reason for such — is a little bit of it all.
The major overhaul of the current system that recognized five Division I state champions via a regional format concept and playoff system essentially lumps all football-playing schools into three classes during the regular season before expanding to six classes for the postseason.
Public school basketball, baseball and softball will remain in three classes throughout the regular season and tournament series.
Football, however, is another story.
Deemed the ‘Z-Plan’ and derived from a similar system in the Virginia prep ranks, each of the three classes for football in ’09 will be comprised of 16 districts during the regular season.
When it comes time to divide teams for the postseason, Class 3A will be split into 6A and 5A. Class 2A for the regular season will make up 4A and 3A in the playoffs, and single-A during the regular season will be divided into 2A and 1A for the postseason.
And that’s the simple part of the equation.
Teams finishing first or second in the district will be automatic playoff qualifiers.
Also, half of the teams in each class within the district will also get a berth.
The rest of the postseason bracket will made up of wildcard qualifiers.
The new system is similar in that respect to the one first experimented with last season in Class 2A football.
Classes 6A, 5A, 4A and 3A will have a 32-team playoff bracket with the field in 2A and 1A being made up of 24 teams. In the four largest classes, the 32 teams will be placed geographically in four quadrants of eight teams.
In Class 2A and single-A, where there are but 41 football-playing schools in each, the playoff format will be one of six teams in four quadrants with the top two seeds in each getting a first-round playoff bye.
The original plan was for all schools to play everyone in their district.
The creation of several nine-team leagues, however, and scheduling conflicts that come with such a number prompted the TSSAA’s Board to put the final say-so of four districts in the hands of its coaches.
Those leagues will have the option to play every team and thus limit the number of non-district opponents they may schedule.
As an alternative, though, they could vote to divide their districts into three three-team “pods,” with clubs playing the two teams in their pods, then four of the six others — either by random draw or some other undetermined method.
That will directly affect Obion Central, which was placed in a nine-team league that includes Haywood, Covington, Crockett County, Dyersburg, Ripley, Milan, Westview and Gibson County.
Coaches from that district are scheduled to meet Monday night for scheduling purposes and are expected to decide which of the two methods they will employ over the next two seasons.
Both Union City and South Fulton are part of what is now District 14A, along with Lake County, Halls and Greenfield and, with Humboldt and Trenton — though 2A entries once the classifications are halved for the postseason — also in with the two local clubs.
That means the Tornadoes and Red Devils will be looking for four non-district games to fill out their respective schedules.
South Fulton and Union City have been playing in the same district since the 2005 season when the TSSAA last made changes to its football classification.
Interesting enough in a plan supposedly born out of geography and mapped around less travel, several teams from the county were split up, including Greenfield, which will be in 14A, and Gleason, which will now be a part of 13A, along with Huntingdon, West Carroll and Bruceton.
Dresden, a third Weakley County entry, will also be a part of 13A and away from Greenfield.
Basketball-wise, UC and South Fulton’s league will remain largely the same, though some smaller.
The moving of Dresden and Gleason to District 13A, gives 14A eight teams now instead of 10, with Bradford, Greenfield, Halls, LC, Humboldt and Trenton making up that league.
Obion Central’s hoop fortunes, however, got a whole lot more difficult with the addition of Covington, Ripley and Haywood to a six-team circuit that will still include the Rebels, Milan, Westview, Dyersburg, Crockett County and Gibson County.
Dyer County moved up to 3A.
One failed motion at the meeting had Covington, Ripley and Fayette-Ware headed to Memphis to create four seven-team West Tennessee districts.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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