Like several other big-class schools in the state, Lawrence High and Free State High have rejected a new eight-team football playoff proposal put forth by the Kansas State High School Activities Assn.
The deadline for KSHSAA member schools to respond to the proposal was Friday. According to a KSHSAA administrator, support for the new plan was low, especially among the state's bigger schools.
"Among 11-man schools, there doesn't seem to be too much support," KSHSAA assistant executive director Rick Bowden said. "Several 8-man schools are in support of a new plan. From year to year it's difficult for some of the 8-man schools to know if they'll have a team."
Bowden said he expected a decision in mid-January by the KSHSAA Board of Directors, which is comprised of 11 school administrators representing all school sizes.
"This proposal obviously could get a lot of support or no support," Bowden said. "The Board could sit on this and say there needs to be time to respond and take action in March. I anticipate something will be decided in January."
Under the new proposal, seven games will count in determining playoff participants instead of the final three. Two teams from each district would qualify for the state playoffs, likely preventing a 5-4 or 6-3 team from advancing. A team would have to win three postseason games instead of two to reach the Class 6A final.
Since 1997 LHS and FSHS have been grouped in district with Topeka and Leavenworth. Under the proposal, those four schools would be assigned to a district with Olathe East, Olathe North, Olathe South and Shawnee Mission Northwest. The two schools with the best district records from those eight teams would advance to postseason.
LHS has thrived under the current 20-year-old district format. The Lions have an all-time district record of 57-2 with 18 state appearances since the current format began in 1981. The Firebirds are 7-5 in the four years since the school opened.
The two Lawrence schools are affiliated with the Sunflower League. If the proposal passes, the makeup of the Sunflower League would unravel.
Perennially, the toughest football league in the state with 15 state championships in the past 20 years, Sunflower League schools could no longer have any semblance of a conference schedule.
Four of the Sunflower schools SM East, SM North, SM South and SM West would be assigned to a different district.
"Our decision was to vote no against the present proposal that's before the Activities Association," LHS athletics director Ron Commons said. "It would pretty much do away with any type of a league championship and that was one of the factors why we decided to vote no."
Free State AD Steve Grant concurred.
"We don't like the new set-up," Grant said. "The Sunflower League has taken that position. We also don't like the fact that in the second or third week your season could be over."
The Sunflower League favors another proposal, spearheaded by Leavenworth AD Bob Strano. Basically, that proposal calls for all teams to be seeded after eight games, meaning schools would have something to play for in the final week.
"It has the support of the Sunflower League," Commons said.
On the surface, Ottawa High would be a school in favor of the KSHSAA proposal. Currently, the Cyclones travel great distances for most of their football games in the Huron League. Other schools are Atchison, Bonner Springs and Ward, Turner and Sumner Academy in Kansas City.
However, Ottawa High football coach Pat Boeh isn't a booster.
"I don't like the proposal because we're starting to build some rivalries with our league schools and that wouldn't exist anymore," Boeh said. "And your season could be over early with no chance of moving on."
Districts for the 2001 season are the same as 2000. The earliest a new district format could be in place is 2002.