Some say too many teams will water down the playoffs. Rickey Phillips agrees.
The University Interscholastic League will officially enact a new rule Thursday, adding a fourth playoff team from every Class 2A and 3A district in all team sports.
While Gatesville’s longtime volleyball coach sees the value of the change for large districts, with a six-team field like District 8-3A, where the Hornets compete along with Lampasas, he simply believes it dilutes the postseason pool.
“There are some districts in the state in volleyball or whatever sport that are loaded with four or five good teams,” Phillips said, “and that is not really right for them, and I think that fourth team is justified. Four is kind of stretching it a bit ... but we preach to our kids that we’re not playing for the fourth spot.”
Although Phillips has some opposition to the rule change, Badgers’ first-year athletic director and head football coach Brian Emerson honestly could not care any less.
He does not feel it damages the credibility of the postseason or lessens the importance of games.
Emerson does, however, believe the rule change, which is one of several approved by the UIL last spring, diminishes the value of winning a district title — something he expected all teams to strive for.
“In reality, you could be the third-place team in the district and based upon your size and which division you go into, you could be in the best shape of anyone in the playoffs,” Emerson said. “Aside from the fact you are able to hoist a district championship banner up in the gym or something, the advantage of being the district champion is not really there.”
Having spent the previous 11 years at Medina Valley, competing as a 4A program with four teams from each district making the playoffs, Emerson is unfazed by the change.
“Every time a team that I’ve been involved with has taken the field, it has been very, very important,” he said. “The fact that four teams were going to the playoffs never even entered my mind.”
First-year Salado athletic director and head football coach Brent Graham was in favor of the change, preferring a more-the-merrier, glass-half-full approach.
“I like it, I like the fact that kids that have been left out of the playoffs (in the past) will get to play another week of high school athletics,” Graham said, “and you never know what’s going to happen (once they’re there).”
Along with adding teams to the playoff mix, the rule change eliminates opening-round byes for district champions, a feat Gatesville’s volleyball team has accomplished seven times since 2003. Nevertheless, Phillips welcomes that aspect.
“Honestly, I haven’t enjoyed having that bye week just because it throws you out of your routine,” he said. “From that standpoint, we’ll definitely like that.”
Additional rule changes going into effect include students and parents signing a new, required Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness form, increasing the number of teams advancing from district to area meets to four in team tennis, and a reduction in the number of tournaments or meets by one per season for all sports. Teams can compete in one to three tournaments with the number of regular season games being altered based on the amount of tournaments participated in.
“Now, I don’t have to play that early-season tournament when we’ve basically only been practicing for a week or two,” said Florence boys basketball coach Danny Wood, who opted to schedule only two tournaments for the upcoming season. “It gives me a little more preparation time. ... At this point and time, I’m happy (with the changes as a whole). Now, we’ll see if it helps me.”