At its annual winter board meeting, the N.C. High School Athletic Association made a significant change to the football playoff system in the state.
The format will return to what it was in 2009 with 32 teams in two regionals in six of the eight classifications, 2A, 2AA, 3A, 3AA, 4A, and 4AA. The only level of play where the “pod system” will remain will be for the 1A and 1AA teams due to the wide travel distances that these smaller schools have to face.
The “pod system,” which was created to shorten the travel times and distances for schools, was implemented in 2010 and lasted only three seasons.
The system would group teams into four regions in the state: West, Midwest, Mideast and East. Teams would be seeded 1-16, and then the teams would be matched up with teams that were the closest to them. However, instead of having a top seeded team face the 16th seeded team, sometimes they would end up facing a 10 or an 11-seed because they were closer in travel distance. Some teams seeded worse than number one could get the 15th or 16th seeded team, making for controversial conversations among coaches and fans throughout the state.
Playoff football will return to the old format, which were simply two regions, East and West. The top seed will face the 16-seed, the second seeded team will face the 15th seeded team, and so on.
Another key drawback of the system was that conference foes could meet as early as the first round of the playoffs quite often, simply because of the close distances. For example, just this season, Mountain Valley Conference teams Elkin and Alleghany met in the first round. Similarly two seasons ago, North Davidson and Davie County played in the first round after those two had just met the previous week in the regular season finale. North won the conference title, but having to face Davie two weeks in a row, North lost the rematch. The chances of facing a conference foe in the first round greatly decreases with the return of the old format.
The NCHSAA approved a few other moves for the upcoming 2013-2014 sports year, including lengthening the lacrosse season by one week, approving the summer dead period of two weeks for all sports in terms of off season work (one week during the week of the fourth of July and one week during NCCA coaches clinic), and a 10-percent pay increase for officials.