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Could the high school football playoff seeding committee offer a blueprint to other sports? The WIAA thinks so.

Human element offered by second-year committees has improved football playoffs, WIAA says.
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RENTON — The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association used five seeding committees to determine their 2019 high school football playoff brackets -- four more committees than last year -- and organizers felt two adjustments improved the process. 

Could that lead to other sports adopting the format?

“There’s been no official request, everyone was curious to see how football went last year,” Greg Whitmore, chairman of the football seeding committee, said. “Went really well. This year they’re watching really closely.”

Whitmore, who is the head football coach and athletic director at Lind-Ritzville-Sprague as well as the WIAA executive board president, said the new football playoff seeding has been a case study for other sports such as basketball or soccer, that have processes the association gets the most backlash for from coaches.

Basketball seeds its playoffs using an RPI system and play-in games based on district allocations. Soccer follows football’s previous model with each district receiving a select number of allocations based on the number of in-district teams.

After the inaugural seeding committee in 2018, the WIAA added three more committees so that each oversees one classification, a move the WIAA said it knew needed to be made. 

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Additionally, the WIAA consulted representatives from each league to further deepen the information pool committee members used to seed each classification.

Reps were asked to rank the teams qualified from its league, disclose any major injuries and any other pertinent information. Unlike a computer rankings system or previously allocated playoff field, the seeding committee factors in outside circumstances such as injuries and head-to-head matchups.

“(A team) may have lost their first three games, but they didn't have kids eligible, kids hurt, now all of a sudden they're on a roll and they beat great teams,” Whitmore said. “Does that bump them up to top-4? Maybe not. But that's the beauty of the human factor.”

Sunday’s committee meetings all finished up to an hour ahead of the official bracket release.

Last year, seeding committees comprised of experts were formed to add expert judgement and various metrics to curb a longstanding system of district allocations that, over time, became a growing sense of frustration for perceived inaccuracies.

This year, each committee was comprised of athletic directors, coaches and media members directly involved with the classification they were seeding, halting the previous year’s setup which saw some coaches voting for brackets outside their own respective classification.

“We have to do that,” La Center coach John Lambert, a first-time member of the 1A seeding committee, said. “I think moving forward everyone is in agreement that that’s the best way to do it so we can just focus on one group.”

Whitmore felt confident any first-year kinks were ironed out with the committee’s adjustments. It’s only a matter of time, he said, before another sport follows suit. 

“I just have a feeling you’re going to see some more sports start to ask for something different,” Whitmore said.