The University Interscholastic League released its 2017 football state championship schedule with a big surprise. All games (Class 1A-6A) will be played the same week(end) at AT&T Stadium, quadruple headers have been eliminated and the weekend kicks off on Wednesday instead of Thursday.
That last one should have Class 2A Division I coaches pulling out their hairs — or what little is left. Class 1A and the large division of 2A will play on Wednesday, which means prospective 2A DI state championship teams can’t play their state semifinal games on Saturday per the UIL’s 5-day rule.
Class 1A typically gets nearly two weeks to prepare for state, so this won’t affect them. Teams in Class 2A DI most likely wouldn’t play their respective state semifinals on Saturday anyway, so it might not seem like a big deal. But the move to play its state title game on Wednesday is a big deal, and here’s why.
Coaches are creatures of habit, and they have their routines. Players get into a routine, and things get habitual. Everything becomes clockwork —bus rides, pregame meals, stretching, which players enter the field to warm up first, pregame chants, socks, ankle tape, where they stand in line for the national anthem and any other quirks. And they normally happen on Friday nights.
If it’s working, don’t mess with it.
The real problem comes for 2A DI teams in scheduling playoff games. For example, there’s a reason most 6A schools play Saturday games throughout the playoffs and 4A opts for Friday games — it’s the same day as their potential state title game.
The path is clear and it puts their teams on a regular schedule. A Class 4A team probably wouldn’t want to play a Saturday game and turn around to play a Friday game the next week.
Giving your next round opponent an extra day in the playoffs? No thanks.
The 2017 varsity football dates are set through regular season and the playoffs, and the earliest that the Wednesday (Dec. 20) state championship teams for 2A DI can play their state semifinals is on Thursday, Dec. 14. A six-day turnaround isn’t that big of a deal, either, as teams often face this in the playoffs.
However, this puts coaches in a predicament of wanting to play several Thursday night games in a row in the playoffs, which puts a strain on the kids and their small towns that shut down on game nights. It brings Friday Night Lights to Thursday, which just doesn’t have the same ring.
Then there’s a break in preparation. If teams have to play on Thursdays constantly, with a possible Friday game blended in, it means practicing on Saturdays with a break on Sundays and picking back up on Monday — The UIL prohibits organized practices on Sundays.
Coaches most likely would want to play state semifinals on a Thursday to give their team an extra day of rest and preparation as opposed to a Friday night game.
But look at this scenario – Last year Refugio played Centerville in the 2A Div. I semifinal in San Marcos on a Friday night. It’s roughly a two-and- a-half- hour bus ride for Refugio and over three hours for Centerville. If they were to meet again at the same place in the semifinals this fall, then coaches have to make a decision — play it on Friday or make that trip on a school night?
Looking at Regions I and II, Stratford and Mart are two perennial powers, and it’s possible for them to meet in the semifinals. The schools are eight hours apart, meaning that if the teams met exactly halfway and played in a cornfield, it’s still a four-hour trip each way for both squads. Again, would they want to play on Thursday or Friday?
Coaches in Class 2A DI will now have more to think about in scheduling for playoff games than ever before. And just like splitting the smaller classifications into separate football divisions and putting a strain on travel budgets, it’s once again the smaller teams that get the short end of the stick.
It’s all about TV and everyone getting the most out of the state championship atmosphere. In the end, it won’t matter to the 2A DI coaches because they’re all on the same playing field —literally and figuratively. They teach their student-athletes to adapt and overcome, and they teach how to deal with adversity.
Then again, coaches are typically superstitious on things like schedules, practices and routines.
Because if it’s working, then why mess with it?
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