Now that playoffs for football and volleyball have arrived, what have we learned in the past five days?
•Volleyball coaches were ticked off about having to wait three days (final matches were last Thursday night) between when everyone’s regular season ended and when the playoff brackets were revealed as part of the Saturday morning “show.” That’s kind of a big deal when the first round matches were Tuesday night and, per AIA bylaws, teams aren’t allowed to do anything on Sundays.
This came on the heels of the revelation that the AIA/MaxPreps.com power rankings were incorrect and not noticed until the day before the regular season ended, which caused several teams to fall out and others to move into the playoffs.
It’s nice that the AIA wants to promote its sports and schools through webcasts and radio shows and bracket breakdowns, but it’s a pretty good bet the volleyball coaches would have gladly traded that stuff in exchange for knowing who their opponent was a day or two earlier to have something more than a walk-through practice at their disposal before the first round matches.
• On the football side, coaches were frustrated and upset not at the show/presentation the AIA and Wolfley’s Bar and Grill put together on Saturday morning for the bracket unveiling, but the confusing communication sent out to them in the days leading up to about whether attendance was required.
Some didn’t read the fine print of the e-mail which offered some more specifics, that’s a coach’s problem, not the AIA. But a Friday night show (in whatever electronic media format) makes more sense for all parties and motivations involved, both logistically and for visibility. The only thing a coach wants to do on Saturday morning of playoff week, is shake hands with each other, exchange game film and leave.
•As for the brackets themselves, the quibbling has been well-documented (Flagstaff at 8-2 missing out in Division III, Notre Dame at 5-5 making it as a No. 16 seed in Division II), but since a computer can’t use an “eyeball” test, it appears as though a majority of teams worthy of a playoff spot got in and cases (right or wrong) could be made for why a few teams didn’t get in.
For the likes of a Highland, which dropped from No. 12 to No. 14 after beating Mesa in Week 9, then lost to Red Mountain in Week 10 but stayed at No. 14, the Hawks can feel some vindication about being worthy of their top 16 spot, even if the journey to get there is riddled in confusion, and even if it means their “reward” is Hamilton.
That said, a move toward having the top team or two in a reduced section earn an automatic spot, followed by at-large spots earned through power rankings, would be welcome.
Now then, let the games begin...
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.