View From the Press Box: Dion Clisso 8/27

Dion Clisso

By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
Posted: August 27, 2016 - 11:12 AM



For the second week in a row, many games across the Metro were forced to finish on Saturday or never got started in the first place.

Strong storms caused long delays and postponements. At the minimum, it has been a disjointed start to the football season while some would say it has been a horrible beginning.

Some games were delayed more than three hours before the decision was made to finish the next day. Another was delayed for three hours, resumed for 25 minutes, and then was called at halftime because lightning returned. That game was finally called about 11:45, meaning those players had started their day at 6 a.m. or so and didn’t walk off the football field until midnight.

Still others were forced to sit on a bus and wait through the delays, only to sit on a bus waiting for roads to clear after a long delay.

Many teams have yet to complete a game at all. Center played one quarter last week, jumping out to a 43-0 lead before the game was called due to weather. This week the Yellowjackets got in a quarter and a half before storms hit in Nevada and that game was called at 21-0 with Center leading.

Yes, storms are hard to predict, that is for sure, but this is Missouri and it's August. The oppressive heat and humidity are the norm, pushing temperatures and heat indexes up around the 100-plus level. That causes delays and schedule changes every year. That is the norm when you start games in August. The other nice feature of Missouri weather is when it’s not a hot summer, it is usually a wet one with storms like we’ve had the last two weeks.

So we know what the issue is. The questions are, how did we get here and how do we fix it?

Well we got here with a couple of developments over the years. First was the change to the playoff system that doubled the amount of teams in the playoffs and added a week to the season. That seemed harmless at the time, but it added a round of games, meaning teams that played for a state title would now have to play 14 games in Class 6, 15 in classes 1 through 4 and 14 or 15 because of the uneven number of teams in class 5.

Then in 2012 the proposal was made to end the Wednesday-Monday-Saturday format of the first three rounds of the postseason in Classes 1 through 5. That caused the season to start a week earlier, which is how we got to where we are now.

Fall practice now starts the first week of August. This year it was Aug. 1. Next year it will be July 31 with games on Aug. 18, so get ready for more heat and storms and games that don’t start or finish in a timely manner.

The next question is, what can be done? According to some, nothing. This is the calendar we have and this is the way the football leaders, i.e. coaches and administrators, want it regardless of whether it is good or bad for the sport or more specifically bad for the student-athletes.

Two things can be done very easily to back the start of the season to Labor Day weekend. While there will still be heat and the threat of rain, the weather tends to be cooler and storms less severe.

The first thing that can be done is to go from a 10-game season to a nine-game season. The 10th game is currently the first round of the postseason. Simply take away one regular season game and make week No. 9 the first week of the postseason.

Kansas has had nine-game seasons for years, and the sport has flourished. In fact this year Kansas has adopted a similar everyone-in-the-postseason model for Classes 5A and 6A, so teams now schedule just eight regular season games followed by a ninth game for every team.

So nine games gets you half way to Labor Day weekend. Where does the other week come from? The next solution is simple as well. Move the state championship games back a week. Play the semifinals for classes 1 through 5 on Thanksgiving weekend and the championships the following weekend. Class 6 and eight-man would simply play their games on Thanksgiving weekend.

Simple, done, problem solved.

Hold on a minute. What about the start of winter sports, most importantly basketball and its four-month journey through the winter? I’ve heard over and over you could never play any football past Thanksgiving weekend because it would kill basketball in Missouri.

Well, here are a couple things to think about. A lot of other states finish up the week after Thanksgiving. Florida, Virginia and Ohio all do, and Texas didn’t end until Dec. 14 in 2015. So it can be done.

What about basketball? We can’t do that to basketball. Let’s do a little math here. If the championship games for classes 1 through 5 were played the week after Thanksgiving, then a total of 10 schools' football teams would cause problems for their basketball teams.

Think about that. All 356 football programs must start practice on Aug. 1 in the heat and humidity along with dangerous weather so 10 basketball programs can have all of their players for the first day of practice.

Yes, that makes total sense.

At a time when the future and health of the game of football are at the forefront, Missouri is playing more games and playing more of those games in the hottest times of the year.

This is not hard especially for an organization like MSHSAA that puts athlete safety at the top of its list. The question is do they really want to make a change or put up their hands and say it’s just too hard.

I’ve heard a saying "don’t let perfect be the enemy of good." To me that sounds like what is happening here. Maybe MSHSAA and its football advisory committee can try for good and fix this problem.

If you agree, disagree or have thoughts on this subject send email to dion@prepskc.com or send comments on twitter to @PrepsKC. I will take a look at those responses in my next column.