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Expanded football playoffs proposed Plan calls for two new classifications, 48 teams

Since the advent of the all-inclusive open state tournaments in every sport with the exception of their own, Maryland football coaches have been exploring ways to increase the number of postseason teams.

Football is the only team sport under the auspices of the Maryland Public Secondary Athletic Association that still employs the points system as the playoff qualifier.

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At a recent State Football Coaches Association meeting, a proposal to increase the number of playoff teams from 32 to 48 by adding two classifications was made. It would include a points system similar to the one currently used.

"It has not been presented formally, but it does make sense," said Baltimore County's Ron Belinko, a member of the State Classification Committee from District VI. "The coaches would have to get a grass-roots push from their local school superintendents for it to go anywhere.

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"We had a committee study expansion before and it became a dead issue. I'm in favor of expansion by using a nine-game, regular-season schedule [instead of 10] but it was tough to get it by the superintendents."

Ned Sparks, the executive director of the MPSSAA, attended the graduation of his daughter from James Madison University this weekend and was unavailable for comment.

State football coaches hope their unique proposal of six classifications will travel the channels of approval and be implemented, possibly for 1998.

"Most of the coaches would like to see more teams in the tournament, and what we have come up with is kind of a compromise after our request to lengthen the season by one week was turned down last year," said Arundel coach Bill Zucco.

Maryland has 164 public schools playing football in four classifications -- 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A. Four region winners and four wild cards in each of the classifications qualify for a total of 32 teams. Adding 16 teams would mean 29 percent of the total teams qualify.

By comparison, Virginia has 280 teams with 34 percent (96, 16 teams in each of six classifications) qualifying.

A study conducted by a group of Charles County coaches revealed that an average of 16 quality teams (9-1, 8-2 and 7-3 records) have not qualified each year since 1990.

Proposed classifications are: 6A, 5A, 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A with eight points awarded for defeating a 5A-6A school, seven for 3A-4A and six for 1A-2A. As now, bonus points (one point for each win by a defeated opponent) would also be awarded.

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With six classifications, the regions would be smaller, with current 4A schools in the 6A class; current 3A schools mixed with 4A's to make up the 5A; current 3A and 2A schools in 4A; current 2A's in the new 3A; some 1A's and 2A's in the new 2A; and the new 1A would be the state's smallest schools.

A sample classification with the schools' current class in parentheses for the 5A East would be: Annapolis, Chesapeake-AA, Dulaney, Severna Park and Queen Anne's (all 4A); Broadneck, Kenwood and Parkville (all 3A).

Under the proposal, there would be six state champions, instead of the current four. By going with a champion in each classification, the starting date and ending date for the season would not have to be changed.

"Adding classifications wouldn't really water things down as some might say," said Zucco. "It would encourage teams to play tougher competition. With everybody qualifying in the other sports, I don't know how anyone could say we're watering it down."

Pub Date: 5/04/97


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