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  Why I Will Never Like District Play-offs

They don't always send the best teams, and its messes up the state seeding.

By: Gary Jones
Published: 2/14/2015 12:34:43 PM

When I read that the Mountain View girls’ basketball team was upset in District, I was not surprised. Not because I didn’t think they were good, but because it happens all the time in District playoffs in Idaho.  Let me start out with an assumption: the best teams in each District should go to state.  Is that crazy??  I don’t think so.  So now we need a system to determine the best teams.  There are two choices:  1) You play 20 games over three months and you play each league opponent twice, or 2) You play a few  District games where you don’t even play each league opponent once.  In Idaho, we have chosen #2 and I know why.  Many will say it’s for the teams who have nothing to play for after a poor season, but in reality it’s the $5 we charge to watch District, which generates thousands of dollars.  There it is again: the root of all evil. 

I have and always will dislike District because, while it’s fair to the teams with bad records, it’s also unfair to the teams with the best records.   After three long months with much blood, sweat and tears, we tell teenagers, “Hey, nice record but it doesn’t mean much.  You gotta prove it to us again.”  This format puts an enormous amount of pressure on kids under the age of 19. They have everything to lose after proving themselves for 3 months. 

There have been many examples of this through the years.  I can’t remember them all, and I want to be accurate, so I’ll give you one I distinctly remember:  A few years back the Skyview boys team was 20-0 entering District. They lost two games, finished at 20-2, but did not go to state.  Someone please tell me how a system like this is fair to the 12 boys who played that season.  I really don’t care about the fairness to a team that’s under .500 for the year.  They simply don’t belong at state for the reason I stated earlier, they are not among the best teams at state.  We need to be fair to the best teams, not the other way around.

You know what else District causes?  A completely ridiculous state bracket based on seeding.  Idaho will not seed the eight teams in state based on their record. The seedings are drawn up a couple years in advance.  In Mountain View’s case this year, the top seed from District 5/6 is supposed to play the third seed from District 3.  So after winning District 5/6, the Hillcrest Knights surely checked the state bracket only to find out they drew a 23-1 team, which is supposed to be the third best from District 3.  For all you people that disagree with me about District, please explain to the Lady Knights why this system is logical and determined to be the best.

  I have many questions.  Why do we seed every single wrestler in the state in each weight class? I’m assuming because of the fairness to the wrestlers who have the best records.  So why don’t we want to be fair to the best teams in other sports?  (Ihave no answer to this one).  I’ve asked the IHSAA why they don’t seed state basketball and I always get the same answers:  it’s hard because they don’t play the same teams is the common answer, but doesn’t that apply to wrestlers, as well?  They also will point out that seeding isn’t full proof and will not always be correct.  While I totally agree with that, it is surely better than a blind draw where the seedings come out of a very short District tourney.

I have been announcing games at state since 1988.  I give you one classic example of why we should seed state instead of having this blind draw.  In 2006, I announced one of the most exciting basketball games I have ever seen.  Grangevilleand Butte County girls' played each other in the semi-final, even though they were clearly the two best teams in the state. If it had been seeded, they would have been on opposite brackets without question.  Butte won 66-59, and I believe it was double overtime.  When Butte played Soda Springs in the title game, they won going away 75-49.  Wouldn’t Idaho rather have the double overtime thriller in the title game?  And I ask you one last question:  which system has a better chance of pulling this off- a seeded tournament by intelligent people, or a blind draw?

Look, I get one thing- District is never going away because of the money.  Never.   But I have what I believe is a fair system.  Since each District gets a chance at more than one team going to state, you send the first one by winning league and the rest by District.  If the District only gets 1 ½, then the second team would have to get there via District and then a play-in game.  The league winner would play in District so they don’t sit out while others play, and if they win District, as well, you send the second or third team based on how many spots you have that year.  And you get a group of coaches and administrators to seed the tourney themselves and go away from this blind draw.

We can all ague about this until we are blue in the face, butI think that when it comes down to what is fair and what is right and wrong, we need to be the most fair to teams with the best records after 3 months and 20 games.  And while many of you will disagree with me and think I’m way off base here, I know one large group of people that will think I’m right:  the players, coaches, parents, relatives, and friends of that Skyview team that was 20-2, when our great system didn’t deem them good enough to play at the state tournament.


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