The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) will soon consider a plan that would increase postseason opportunities for those teams that do not qualify for the regular playoffs, while also adding a consolation bracket to the regular 224-team, 11-player football tournament.
The proposal comes out of the recent WIAA Football Coaches Advisory Committee meeting and has been sent to football coaches for review and feedback by the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association (WFCA).
Under the plan, all 11-player teams in the state would play a minimum of 11 games. The regular season would be unchanged, with no change in start date or the nine-game regular season maximum.
Conferences, conference games, playoff qualification, and regular season would remain the same. The 8-player postseason would not be impacted by this plan and would not be subject to the consolation bracket or pod-style setups.
The addition of a consolation bracket in each 8-team grouping would add a cumulative total of 84 postseason games for teams that participate in the regular playoffs. Another 140-150 games would be added in the pod-style postseason option for teams that do not qualify for the regular playoffs.
The entirety of this plan will continue through the WIAA's governing structure in the coming weeks, including the Sports Advisory Committee, Advisory Council (who can veto the proposal before it gets to the Board of Control), and if applicable to the WIAA Board of Control, which will meet to review football season regulation proposals on Wednesday, February 1, 2023.
After the conclusion of the regular season, the 224-team regular playoff field would be selected as it always has been. Teams that do not qualify for the 224-team field would be placed into four-team pods, with similar records and school sizes determining groupings. The four-team pod would play a bracketed mini-tournament with the winners of the first games playing each other the following week while the losers of those opening games would also play each other.
This would mean that even non-playoff qualifiers would still play 11 games, with those teams getting two extra weeks of practice and development time.
There would be no opt-in/opt-out system, as all teams that do not qualify for playoffs would be placed into a pod to play two more games.
See a sample of the pod-style mini-tournament below.
In addition to the pod-style option for non-playoff qualifiers, the current system would change for teams that do make the playoffs as well. Within the 8-team regional groupings already assigned by the WIAA in each division, there would be a bracket that would go to the left for a consolation bracket, with teams that lose in Level 1 playing one or two more games.
If a team loses in Level 1, they would go into the consolation bracket against the loser of the other game next to them on the bracket. The winner of that game would then compete the following week for the Consolation Title. The winner of the Consolation Title in each bracket for each division would receive an award from the WIAA.
This guarantees all teams that make the playoffs would have the opportunity to play up to 11 games, and teams that advance to the Consolation Title would play 12 games.
The rest of the regular playoff bracket and tournament would be unchanged, and teams that win in Level 1 but lose in Level 2 would not advance to a consolation. They would simply be finished with their season.
Please see the diagram below for an example of an 8-team playoff grouping with the consolation bracket.
The Wisconsin Football Coaches Association sent the following letter to all head football coaches earlier today outlining the proposal:
We hope everyone is doing well. We want to make you aware of a proposal that was brought forward to the WIAA. The proposal has football expanding its season to 11 games. Many other sports have added games in recent years and we feel now is our time to do so as well. We don’t want to start our season any earlier, so therefore we had to be creative at the end of the season to expand to 11 games. We also didn’t want to change anything with the current playoff qualifying criteria or tournament format to find the state champion in each division.
The 224 WIAA football tournament will remain as is. This new proposal adds a consolation bracket to the current tournament format for teams that lose in level 1. Original seeding will be used to determine matchups. Think of this as a “regional” consolation title. Teams will now have the opportunity to compete for 3rd place within their 8-team grouping. All playoff qualifying teams will get at least 11 games, with the consolation finalists getting 12 games. The WIAA will recognize the consolation bracket winners with an award. Please see diagram below for the proposed consolation bracket.
As for the teams that don’t qualify for the 224 team tournament, the WIAA will create a Similar Record Pod format that will guarantee all teams get 11 games. This takes nothing away from our outstanding tournament, but allows non-qualifying teams to extend their season competing against teams with similar records, with the hope that it leads to program improvement. This will result in all teams playing football until the end of October, two weeks longer than we currently are playing. This offers great opportunities for all our athletes to gain more experience and this provides teams at the end their season a competitive game with like opponents.
We feel this is a positive move for football in Wisconsin, without going to an “All Play” tournament."
Travis Wilson serves as the WisSports.net General Manager, Football Editor, and contributing writer for other parts of the site. Wilson was selected as part of the Sports 40 Under 40 list by Coach & AD Magazine and the National High School Athletic Coaches Association for 2019. The Wisconsin Football Coaches Association (WFCA) named Travis the 2015 recipient of the Dave McClain Distinguished Service Award. He currently serves on the WFCA Executive Board as the Website and Communications Director and is a member of the Executive Board of the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association. A graduate of Richland Center High School and Mount Mercy College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Travis was a three-sport athlete in high school (football, baseball, basketball) and currently resides in Reedsburg. You can follow him on Twitter at @travisWSN.
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