For Good Or Ill, Playoffs End The Guessing Game Over Football Rankings
Following Central Valley’s season-ending football loss, Cheney coach Tom Oswald called Rick Giampietri to commiserate.
“I know how you feel,” Oswald told the CV coach. “A lot of teams who were 9-0 on Friday are 9-1 today.”
Central Valley and Cheney were among them. Each was ranked No. 3 in its respective AAA and AA state polls before unceremoniously exiting in the first round of the playoffs.
There can be two ways of looking at high school playoff competitition. Obviously pitting the best teams against each other to determine a true state champion on the field makes more sense than determining it by arbitrary polls. And post-season play is a nice reward for successful team seasons.
Because there is money to be made and precedent set, the playoff system in 18 sports is here to stay.
Still, some coaches aren’t enamored of dragging the football season on. Cheney’s Oswald is among them.
“I’m not a playoff guy,” he said. “It’s fun, I guess, but in a lot of ways it’s too bad you can’t put things away, feel good about yourselves and conjecture about how good you are.”
That was the case for all those unbeaten CV teams in the 1960s and early 1970s, and in 1972 when East Valley went undefeated. Followers say it might have been the school’s best team ever.
EV’s 1981 state champion can argue to the contrary and playoff proponents can point to that title as proof, just as will West Valley partisans compare the 1976 champs with the runnersup of 1975 and 1984.
But there is a downside, not the least of which, said Oswald, is that athletes begin to specialize.
Thankfully, he continued, in football the league titlist goes directly to the playoffs. He remembers league champions in other sports who didn’t even get to state because of district playoff letdowns, such as the Eagle basketball team of a year ago.
“Colville goes to state and was fourth in league. Nobody remembers West Valley wins it,” he said. “You explain to me how that’s good for kids.”
CV had its best football season in 21 years. The team of 1974, which probably would have liked a playoff even if their coach wasn’t high on the idea, put the gear away bragging about its record.
This year’s team, despite a season of accomplishment, is remembered by one bad day in the playoffs.