Sideline Pass: Adam Sullivan 9/13

Adam Sullivan

By Adam Sullivan PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: September 13, 2018 - 7:41 PM

At what point do we reconsider what high school football looks like? Are leagues trying to go the super conference look like college ball? Can you really have a league “champion” if that team or teams don’t face off? Stretching through two Kansas football classes with 13 teams sits the Sunflower League. Traditionally one of the strongest leagues in the state has recently seen its power trend downward with the rise of the Eastern Kansas League with powers like Blue Valley North, Blue Valley and Bishop Miege. The EKL has nine total teams with a format of seven league games and one non-conference opponent is allowed. With this type of set up you get a better look at who the true champion is.

This season it appears Lawrence Free State and Olathe North will cruise through its Sunflower League foes, each facing seven league teams but never facing off against one another. With playoff brackets undetermined, we may never see that matchup this season which is becoming a yearly issue for the league.

In the previous five seasons, two teams have shared the league crown. Three out of those five seasons the two league champions didn’t play one another. If you stretch it further back in history, you find the same problem. In 1999, 2005 and 2010 the league saw three champions. Yes, you read that correctly, three champions something the Big 12 would even see an issue with.

A bigger problem programs are running into is consistency. Take a poll of the 13 teams in the Sunflower League on how a team wins the league and you’d likely get multiple answers. Ask the local media and you would get the same results. Is it win percentage? Record? Are there tiebreakers? Does head to head matter? Nobody seems to know the answers to these questions which waters down the title even more.

A league title should mean something, it shouldn’t just be an added asterisk on a team’s record in its yearbook that season. 

So now that we acknowledge the state of the league, where do we go from here? As conferences continue to go with the motto “bigger is better” and expansion seems to be a yearly topic, the Sunflower League needs to adjust with the current time.

One idea that has been mentioned by PrepsKC’s Dion Clisso seems to make the most sense. With the Kansas season now eight games the Sunflower League needs to break up into two divisions which can be realigned on a yearly basis or every two years etc. Have a six-game league slate which still allows programs one non-conference game (Olathe North @ Columbine for example). At the end of the six games, seed your division teams and have the top teams play one another for a championship. Have the twos play the twos, threes and threes and so on. Not only does this give us a league champion, but it allows teams to improve its playoff seed the week before post-season play. 

I’m all for expansion and super conferences etc. but at some point, those in charge need to update the rules to match the quickly growing logistics. All of this is speculation and likely something that won’t be addressed for a few years. The Sunflower Leagues biggest problem at the moment you ask? Who is going to be the 14th team? That’s a discussion for another day.