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WIAA’s state football playoff seeding committee getting ready for its maiden voyage

By Nathan Joyce - Seattle Times, 11/04/18, 9:45AM PST

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How will it work? There's a lot that won't be known until it's happens as, for the first time, the state football tournament will be seeded by a committee.

Greg Whitmore, from his post as football coach and athletic director at small eastern Washington outposts of Lind and Ritzville, is pragmatic about what will transpire this weekend in Renton.

Sunday, for the first time, the state football brackets will be filled in by a committee of people rather than relying on RPI or district seeding or drawing schools from a hat or any other objective method you might consider.

So how will this sort itself out in this first go-around?
 
“We don’t know what we don’t know,” said Whitmore, who wears many hats as he’s a member of the WIAA’s Executive Board and a member of the state football coaches association as well as heading the football seeding committee.

That’s not to suggest there isn’t a plan heading into Sunday’s meetings, but as this is a first for the state, there’s plenty that won’t be known until butts find seats and discussions begin.

“It creates a little more excitement for the tournament,” WIAA assistant executive director John Miller said. “We’re still going to have only one champion, but the better teams are going to have equal access of moving on instead of getting paired early on.”

In June, the WIAA’s Executive Board voted to form the committee, on a one-year trial basis, after the state coaches association decided a proposal by the WIAA’s RPI committee, also headed by Whitmore, was better punted on.

Whitmore said there were several factors why football coaches eschewed RPI, which has seeded the state basketball tournaments the past two years, but among the biggest reason is the small sample nature of a football season, which has half the games of basketball.

Another factor was that the coaches wanted a human element, which is unique to state tournaments in Washington. Traditionally, state tournaments are seeded based on how teams fare in district tournaments. The state bracket is set up via draw early in the season, and teams know where it will fall on it if it finishes fourth at districts. Or third or second.

“We’re hoping to get the right teams playing at the right time,” said O’Dea football coach Monte Kohler, who is on the seeding committee.

In this new format, there are three committees working with two classifications each. One will handle the two B classifications; another will handle Class 1A and 2A and a third will seed Class 3A and 4A. The committees are largely comprised of current and retired football coaches with some media members and online football rankers sprinkled in.

The work began after Week 7’s slate of games (Oct. 11-13). Committee members passed around their top-10 rankings to stimulate discussion.

Whitmore said the plan is to listen to as many sources as possible, including rankings from MaxPreps.com and other online ranking sites and coaches polls.

Heading into the meetings, each member will rank the field (one through 16) from top to bottom to use as a starting point.

After that?

Well, that’s what we don’t know.

If there are disagreements, it could come down to a vote or a chairman decision.

One thing Whitmore is sure about: The committee won’t go crazy worrying about which team is the top seed and which is the second or third. He sees it as more important to get the best teams on opposite sides of the bracket to ensure meetings late in the tournament. The committee could also take travel into account when making early round matchups.

“We don’t want to let perfect get in the way of better,” Whitmore said.