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Sven Alskog

Sven is a graduate of Idaho State University. His time at began in the fall of 2013 working football broadcasts. Since then he has been on the call for basketball, baseball, volleyball and wrestling as well for IdahoSports. Previously Sven has worked in the West Coast League as the 'Voice of the Kitsap BlueJackets' summer collegiate baseball team. He is originally from Camano Island, Wash.

How Does Idaho Compare?

76 percent of 2A schools participated in the opening round of the playoffs in Idaho. Is the field too big?

By: Sven Alskog
Published: 10/29/2018 12:57:13 PM

Over the course of the last couple of weeks there has been plenty of discussion regarding the number of teams that are invited into the playoff fields across all classifications here in Idaho. That got me thinking that it would be a good use of time to go in and see what other neighboring states do to get an idea of how the Gem State compares.

One of the questions I found interesting was, “Why even play the first round games with all the potential blowouts?”

The first round games were decided by a combined score of 1,149 to 468, which is an average of 42.6 points per game to 17.3.

Obviously there were exceptions to this, as seven of the games were decided by ten points or less, but far more often than not the scoreboard was lopsided in the majority of the matchups last week.

Those familiar know that the Idaho High School Activities Association (IHSAA) allows each classification to choose how it gets to the number of teams that play in the official IHSAA tournament. For 5A and 4A that number is four teams. For 3A, 2A, 1AD1 and 1AD2 the number is eight. 

For example, the 4A classification this year has 28 schools that participate in football. Of those schools, 16 played last week in what were labeled as “Non-IHSAA Games”, meaning the games are not officially sponsored by the IHSAA. The 4A quarterfinals are also not sponsored by the IHSAA. Of the 16 teams in the field, five had records below .500 on the season. 

In total, 57 percent of 4A schools in Idaho make the initial playoff bracket. For comparison sake, in Washington 4A that number is 24 percent and in Oregon 47 percent. The state of Oregon has 16 teams on each of its brackets 5A on down and 32 on the 6A bracket for 2018. 

In the Idaho 1AD1 classification eight teams participate in the football playoffs, meaning each game on their bracket is IHSAA sponsored. That is the only classification in the state where that is the case. This year all of the teams in the field have two or fewer losses, with 7-2 Challis missing out on a berth despite being ranked in the top five of the media and coaches polls all season and only having losses to Oakley and Valley by four points each time.

The classification in Idaho where the highest percentage of teams make the initial playoff field is in the 2A ranks, where 16 of 21 (76 percent) receive berths. This year the 2A utilized a Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) to select three at-large teams. It was then used again to bracket the quarterfinals, with the highest remaining team in the RPI facing the lowest remaining and so on and so forth.

A big reason to implement the RPI this year was to avoid instances of one-win or winless teams receiving playoff berths, which had occurred previously.

While there were no teams falling in the zero or one win threshold this year in the first round of the Idaho playoffs, 14 teams with records below .500 made it in. Each of those teams lost their first games and have been eliminated.

So to answer the questions I have seen regarding what other states do, below is information on how many teams get in for each classification in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Montana. The largest classification in Montana is AA.

5A, 18 schools, 12 teams
4A, 28 schools, 16 teams
3A, 19 schools, 12 teams
2A, 21 schools, 16 teams
1AD1, 20 schools, 8 teams
1AD2, 27 schools, 12 teams

4A, 66 schools, 16 teams
3A, 65 schools, 16 teams
2A, 63 schools, 16 teams
1A, 54 schools, 16 teams
2B, 48 schools, 16 teams
1B, 39 schools, 8 teams

6A, 53 schools, 32 teams
5A, 32 schools, 16 teams
4A, 34 schools, 16 teams
3A, 36 schools, 16 teams
2A, 49 schools, 16 teams
1A, 87 schools, 16 teams

AA, 14 schools, 8 teams
A, 22 schools, 12 teams
B, 38 schools, 16 teams
8-Man, 43 schools, 16 teams
6-Man, 38 schools, 16 teams

Out of all of the states, Montana seems to be the one that is most comparable to Idaho in relation to the number of teams that are invited to the field. Of the 155 football playing schools in Montana, 68 (44 percent) of them are participating in playoff football. In Idaho, 133 teams participate in football and 76 (57 percent) make the playoffs.

Washington has the lowest percentage of teams making the field, with just 88 (26 percent) of 335 earning berths.

Oregon has 291 schools that play football. Of those 291 football programs, 112 (38 percent) earn spots in the playoffs. That number is skewed by the 1A ranks, where just 16 of 87 schools participate in the postseason. The percent is much closer to 50 for 3A-6A. 

So with all of this information now in front of us, we gather back to the original question asked by a fan earlier this week of “why even play the first round games with all the potential blowouts?” 

I see it as two-fold. 

To start, teams would rather the extra game that is added to their schedule have everything on the line rather than being a non-conference game as part of the regular season. For teams that win, it is an opportunity to fine-tune everything prior to the quarterfinals. For teams that lose, they get to face a quality opponent in a playoff setting, which builds excitement around the program win or lose.

Aside from that, if Idaho were to adopt a new-look playoff system it would require some pretty monumental changes to how teams are selected to the field, as evidenced by Challis missing the 1AD1 playoffs in that classifications current eight team bracket. 

So basically to bring this whole thing together, here are some facts. Knowing them, what do you think is the best way to select the teams? 

Is it the current model of pre-bracketing based on districts?

Do you like the RPI model that the 2A chose to go with this season?

Are you a huge fan of Washington, where just 26 percent of the teams make the playoffs across all classifications?
Should a lower percentage of teams make the playoffs?

No matter what side of the fence you fall on, this is the best time of the year if you are a football fan. Enjoy the games this week. If you can’t make it out we will have 18 of the 24 quarterfinals broadcast live and free on

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