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By Ward Gossett and Gene Henley
The TSSAA Board of Control voted unanimously Monday to approve a revamped football playoff system that will go into effect for the 2015-16 school year.
The plan places the state's 32 largest high schools in Class 6A with all 32 advancing to the postseason. The state's other five classifications will revert to a previous system that will do away with the computer-generated rankings that have determined playoff participants and seeds for the past three seasons.
"Think of it like this -- going back to the old five-class system; eight regions each class; top four teams in each region go to playoffs," TSSAA assistant executive director Matthew Gillespie said. "Then just add the 32 largest schools in the state in their own class, where all 32 go to playoffs.
"This changes the current plan quite a bit, although we won't really know how regions will look until we get enrollment numbers [around Sept. 20] and then give schools the opportunity to move up a classification."
Based on numbers circulated earlier this summer that were based on 2012 enrollments, no school in the Chattanooga area would be in the state's highest classification.
However, Bradley Central athletic director Turner Jackson said Monday evening that it was possible, if not probable, that the Bears could wind up playing in 6A and facing a taxing travel situation because of an enrollment increase.
"It's the best plan they could come up with," Jackson said. "People like it because the rest of the classifications are [seeded for playoffs] one versus four and two versus three. It's good for the state, but it's not good for Bradley."
The closest school currently projected to be in the largest classification is Farragut -- 70 miles from Bradley Central.
"I'd rather be where we are right now, but if I'm taking myself out of Bradley, I think it's a good plan," Jackson said.
Coaches contacted Monday were unanimous in approval. Many of them will be returning to regions similar to those in which they participated before the current playoff system began with the 2010 season.
"This is the way it ought to be," said Tyner coach Wayne Turner, one of those selected two years ago to try to improve the existing plan and one of its biggest detractors. "This has been a crazy plan we've been under anyway."
Turner was surprised at Monday's decision.
"When we were on that committee and I tried to get them to go back to the old system, we were told they weren't going to do it," he said. "The plan with the computer was never too good. Even when we won a district championship or finished runner-up, we never had a home game."
Derrick Davis, the veteran Polk County coach, had resigned himself to waiting and playing whatever cards the TSSAA dealt.
"Oh, yeah," he responding heartily when asked if he was glad the computers were gone. "If you finish one through four, you're playing [in the postseason]. If you don't, you won't. One thing I like is that I can play a tough nonconference opponent and not get penalized if I lose."
Polk's current nondistrict schedule includes Bradley Central, Walker Valley, South Pittsburg and Notre Dame, three of the four playing in higher classifications.
"I like it from a football standpoint because it gives us a bigger district," Boyd-Buchanan coach Grant Reynolds said. "I don't have to find as many nonregion games. Also, you know by Week 8, 9 or 10 what seed you're playing for and who you might play."
Boyd-Buchanan has been in a four-team district with Silverdale Baptist, Copper Basin and Grace Academy.
Signal Mountain is a 3A school that plays toward a 4A postseason.
"Whether we would be 3A or 4A will depend on what our coaches want," Signal athletic director Bumper Reese said. "Right now our best games are nondistrict opponents, and if we go 3A (a projected 10-team region) it gives us really zero room for rivalry games, although travel-wise it seems like it would be a lot better."
Contact Ward Gossett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com Follow him at Twitter.com/genehenleytfp.
Possible Chattanooga-area regions
(Based on 2012 enrollment numbers discussed at a meeting held on June 11 by Board of Control member Tommy Layne and Legislative Council member Danny Gilbert)
Class 1A: Copper Basin, Fayetteville, Grace Academy, Huntland, Lookout Valley, Moore County, Sale Creek, South Pittsburg, Whitwell.
Class 2A: Bledsoe County, Boyd-Buchanan, Marion County, Meigs County, Polk County, Silverdale Baptist, Tellico Plains, Tyner.
Class 3A: Brainerd, Chattanooga Christian, East Ridge, Grundy County, Howard, McMinn Central, Notre Dame, Red Bank, Sequatchie County, Signal Mountain.
Class 4A: Central, Cumberland County, East Hamilton, Hixson, Sequoyah, Stone Memorial, White County.
Class 5A: Bradley Central, Cleveland, McMinn County, Ooltewah, Rhea County, Soddy-Daisy, Walker Valley.