After five seasons of the controversial "Z Plan," which employs a complicated playoff formula for Tennessee high school football, the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) has proposed changes that could return Division I to a playoff format similar to the one used prior to the 2009 season.
TSSAA executives unveiled two proposed change-ups to its Board of Control Tuesday evening. One would leave the current six-class system in place, but with major revisions. The other would return Division I to the five-class system that was abandoned in 2008. The board also has the option of simply continuing with the current system. A decision is not likely before August.
The six-class system proposed by TSSAA would place the largest 32 schools in the state — determined by enrollment numbers — in Class 6A. The remaining schools would be divided evenly among Classes 1A through 5A, again based on enrollment numbers. In Class 6A, all 32 teams would qualify for the postseason playoffs. In the other classes, 32 teams would qualify for the playoffs. The total number of football teams would increase from 176 to 192, and the current playoff byes in Classes 1A and 2A would be eliminated. In Classes 1A through 5A, the top four teams from each region would qualify for the playoffs.
Under either format, the top four teams from each region would qualify for the playoffs in Classes 1A through 5A. Seeding would be determined by region standing. The Region 2-A champion, for example, would host the Region 1-A fourth-placed team in the first round.
Either format would also abandon the current district setup that has the same teams competing in the same districts in all major sports — football, basketball, baseball and softball.
Under the current system, teams compete in three classes during the regular season, then split into six classes for the playoffs. The top two teams in each district are automatic qualifiers for the playoffs, with the remaining playoff slots determined by a formula in which total wins trump all else. Seeding is determined by the formula and geography.
Under either of TSSAA's proposals, Oneida would be placed in Region 2-A, while Scott would be placed in Region 2-3A. Both teams would return to playing some familiar foes that have been lost under the current setup.
Under the proposed five-class system, Oneida would be placed in a nine-team region that would also include Coalfield, Greenback, Harriman, Jellico, Midway, Oakdale, Sunbright and Wartburg. Teams would have room for only two non-region games each season.
Under the revised six-class system, Oneida would be placed in an eight-team region that would include all of those teams, with the exception of Wartburg.
In either scenario, current district foe Oliver Springs would shift to Class 2A, joining a region that includes such powers as Alcoa and Grace Christian Academy. In the latter scenario, Wartburg would shift to that region as well.
Under either scenario, Oneida's nemesis, Grace Christian, would shift to Class 2A.
Missing from the "small school" ranks under such a system would be perennial playoff teams like Hampton, Rockwood, Boyd Buchanan and Goodpasture. All would be in Class 2A.
Scott High, meanwhile, would be joined in Region 2-3A by York Institute, Knox Carter, CAK, Kingston, Loudon and Pigeon Forge under the proposed five-class system.
Under the revised six-class system, Region 2-3A would be made up of those same teams, except Carter, while Claiborne and Gatlinburg-Pittman would also be in the region.
In either scenario, Scott would not face current District 4-AA powers Alcoa or Knox Catholic. Alcoa would be a Class 2A team, while Catholic would be a Class 5A team.
Loudon, a region and district foe for Scott for many years prior to the most recent realignment in 2012, would return to the schedule, as would York Institute, who was a Region 2-AAA opponent in the 1990s.
Whether either of the proposals will ultimately be adopted is a matter of question. Members of the Board of Control expressed concerns at Tuesday's meeting about the loss of traditional rivalries and more travel.
The result of some of the proposed regions are likely to be seen as less than perfect. Under a revised six-class system, for example, all of Region 1-1A would qualify for the playoffs by default; there would only be four teams — Cloudland, Hancock County, North Greene and Unaka — in the region. Under the five-class system, there would only be five teams in Region 1-1A. Meanwhile, fewer than half the teams from neighboring Region 2-1A would qualify for the playoffs.
In Region 2-2A, Alcoa would be seen as an automatic favorite to win the region most years, with only Grace Christian as serious competition based on results from the past 10 seasons.