NCHSAA playoff system remains a mystery

Nathan Ham

May 15, 2014

Three spring sport playoff brackets were released earlier this week, and the immediate reaction was quite a bit of surprise on my face when I saw the overall records of some of the teams in the playoffs.

How do seven soccer teams qualify for the playoffs without winning a single game this season, and two teams make it with just one victory in roughly 20 games? Alleghany, Albemarle, Neuse Charter, Pender, Cape Hatteras, Louisburg and Red Springs High Schools all finished with zero wins, according to the playoff brackets released by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.

Alleghany’s record of 0-14-1 qualified them for a four-hour drive to second seeded Highlands High School for a game that could be over in a matter of minutes, thanks to the NCHSAA mercy rule of a nine-goal lead.

Thankfully, at least all the teams in the baseball bracket had won at least two games this season. But a 2-20 record is not exactly playoff caliber either, as is the record held by 2A team South Brunswick.

In the softball bracket, one softball team will be in the playoffs with an 0-15 record. 3A team Eastern Wayne will travel an hour and a half to most likely get defeated easily by Swansboro High School, the top team in the 3A East with a 17-3 overall record.

It’s time for the NCHSAA to go back to the drawing board on these playoff systems they have instituted.

The “Pod System” that was used for basketball and football was a massive failure, and as of August 1, 2014, will be eliminated altogether after it was kept in place for the 1A playoff games this past school year. The system was only in place for four years.

Sports are all about money, from pee-wee sports to professional sports. Fans get that. We understand that. But in the end, do we really need 64 teams in each classification, 256 teams overall, playing in the playoffs?

Some teams are blessed with short traveling distances for games. Others, like Alleghany, have to travel four hours for a soccer game.

The simple fix is to just quit putting everyone in the playoffs that show up for a game, which is what the current system looks like. The NCHSAA and schools in the system will still get their money from ticket sales, concessions, booster clubs and Endowment Games. What does one extra round of playoff games really matter when so many of the games are going to be blowouts and attendance will be low anyway?

During the fall, a fellow media member and friend sent me a photo from a first round soccer playoff game at Smoky Mountain High School. 10 fans were there in the stands. Who knows how many stadiums across the state you could say the exact same about during other playoff games.

*Nathan Ham can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @NathanHam87