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Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)
INDIANAPOLIS - Hours before Ben Davis demolished Penn 63-14 on Saturday night to win the Class 6A state championship at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Indiana Football Coaches Association voted to move forward with a proposal to seed sectionals.
While Indiana High School Athletic Association commissioner Bobby Cox said last week in an interview with the IndyStar that he does not favor a seeding system, he did leave the door slightly open - with a caveat.
"Until the football coaches come up with a mercy rule that everybody can live with and it gets passed, I will not entertain the notion of seeding," Cox said.
According to IFCA assistant executive director and Noblesville coach Jason Simmons, the proposal will include a mercy rule.
"We can take a tournament that is really good right now and blend seeding into it," Simmons said.
The proposal, which will be officially submitted to the IHSAA in January, calls for seeding the top two teams in Class A, 2A, 3A and 4A with the remainder determined by the blind draw. That format would erase the possibility of first-round sectional matchups like Class 4A second-ranked Evansville Reitz vs. third-ranked Evansville Central, which happened this season in Sectional 24.
The proposal for Class 5A and 6A would call for a slightly different format, though under the same premise. The sectionals that currently feed into the regional would be combined into one eight-team bracket. For example, Sectional 5 and 6 with Pike, Fishers, North Central, Hamilton Southeastern, Ben Davis, Warren Central, Lawrence Central and Lawrence North would be grouped together. The top two teams - this year, Ben Davis and Warren Central - would be seeded and the remainder determined by a blind draw.
Simmons said sectional and regional championships would be awarded as they are now, although under that format for 5A and 6A, the teams in the sectional could change year to year based on the seeding and blind draw.
"Your four-team cluster would essentially be your sectional," Simmons said. "We're still awarding it the same way, but how it is packaged would look a little bit different."
Simmons said the "product is not broken" but added that the coaches have favored a seeding process in the last three votes within the IFCA from 60 to 75 percent.
"It is not broken in any way, shape or form," Simmons said. "But I think we can enhance the tournament."
The determination on seeding the top two teams would likely come through the Sagarin Ratings. Simmons said the hope within the IFCA is the proposal could go into effect for one year - the 2018 season will be the second year of the two-year classification cycle - to determine if it is working.
"Then we could refine it or drop it depending on feedback we get from athletic directors, principals and the IHSAA," Simmons said.
The IFCA will also submit a mercy rule along with the seeding proposal. The likely numbers would be a running clock after halftime once a team leads by 42 points and 35 in the fourth quarter, Simmons said.
Keep this in mind: While there is plenty of support for a seeding process from coaches and fans, the IFCA proposal would not have necessarily prevented a matchup like Saturday's 6A game. While Ben Davis and Warren Central would not have met until the regional round, the north-south setup would still be the same as now.
On the other hand, this Ben Davis team was probably the best in the state since the 2006 Warren Central group. Since a sixth class was added in 2013, the previous four 6A games had all been competitive (including Penn in a 28-16 loss to Center Grove in 2015).
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.
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