Under previous rules, every team in a district played each other. In sports such as baseball and basketball, they played each other twice, with both teams having a home game. If it was a six-team district, every team would play 10 district games.
Simple enough, right? With that format you could have a true seeding of the best to worst teams in the district for the district tournament.
That’s not the case as things stand today. A team isn’t required to play a set number of district games. There were seven teams in Crestview’s boys basketball District 1-6A.
Only Crestview and Milton played 12 district games, each opponent twice. Crestview finished the third seed in the district with a 9-3 district record. Gulf Breeze was the top seed with an 8-1 district record, the lone loss coming from the Bulldogs.
Tate, the two seed, played six district games and finished 5-1. The Aggies split with the Bulldogs. In an ironic twist, Gulf Breeze and Tate, the two top seeds in the district, didn’t play each other in the regular season.
District champions (determined by the winner of the tournaments in team sports other than football) receive an automatic bid to the state playoffs. In the past, district runners-up would go to the playoffs.
Now there’s a formula, which is only slightly less difficult than the one used to split an atom, that ranks teams based on strength of schedule among other factors that determines non-champions that make the playoffs.
The whole idea of playing a tougher schedule to get into the playoffs, in a lot of ways, makes no sense. A 1A school should be judged by how it plays other 1A schools, especially the schools in its district. A school can’t control the talent level in its region and if it’s one of the best two teams in the district, it shouldn’t be penalized for not playing teams that were stronger.
The fact is, the more populated areas of the state, no matter what classification, will have a higher competition level most of the time. That’s not to say a team from Crestview, Pensacola or Fort Walton Beach can’t win a state championship.
I would love to see the FHSAA credit teams for playing district games. Let’s say a team would get a point for a district win and lose a half point for a district loss, or even lose a point for a district loss. District games should impact district tournament brackets with teams playing the most district games being rewarded accordingly.
Under the current format there’s a less likely chance that a dark horse will break free to a state championship run.
An athlete at Laurel Hill should have the opportunity to make the playoffs as a member of the number two team in the district. Maybe a district runner up will get blown out by the district champion one district to the west, but at least the kids have been given the opportunity to say their team was in the playoffs.
The history of sports is filled with magical upsets that remind us dreams can come true. Let’s give the kids from district runners up the opportunity to again dream. Or at least make everyone in the district play the same number of games leading into the district tournament.