SSC alters tiebreaker formula for football

If the Ashland High football team is left out of the playoffs this season, it won't be because a coin didn't flip their way.

The Southern Sky Conference, likely in its final year of existence, has adopted a new tiebreaker system for football that will take into account point differential. The new system, known as the Azzi Plan, replaces the coin flip tiebreaker that knocked the Grizzlies out of playoff contention last season.

Under the Azzi Plan, point differential with a maximum of plus- or minus-14 points per game will be used to break ties for playoff seeding when head-to-head results can't. Only head-to-head scores among the teams in question will be tallied, and the 14-point limit is intended to avoid rewarding teams that run up the score. If teams are still tied after utilizing the Azzi Plan, teams will be ranked based on fewest points allowed among common opponents.

"I think it's good," Ashland High football coach Charlie Hall said. "Anything to avoid a coin toss situation is good."

Hall speaks from experience. The Grizzlies finished the 2008 regular season in a three-way tie with Crater and Klamath Union for first place in the Southern Sky. Since each team was 1-1 against the other two a coin toss was used to determine which two teams would go to the playoffs and which would stay home. The Grizzlies were the odd team out.

Coincidentally, the Azzi Plan would not have changed last year's SSC seeding, with Crater advancing as the No. 1 seed, Klamath Union No. 2 and Ashland missing out. That's because Crater and Klamath Union finished tied with a plus-5 point differential last season, while Ashland was a distant third at minus-10 (Crater would have beat out KU for the No. 1 spot because the Comets allowed fewer points).

The Azzi Plan was approved by the SSC athletic directors in a meeting Oct. 7.

"We all just agreed that we weren't happy with the coin flip as a way of determining the kids' fate," Ashland athletic director Karl Kemper said.

Kemper pushed hard for a Kansas Plan overtime tie-breaker, to be played the Saturday following the regular season. The idea was supported, at least as an available option, by every Class 5A league in the state, according to Kemper, but was nixed by the Oregon School Activities Association.

"The OSAA medical board shut it down because they didn't think it was safe to play Kansas Plan overtimes the day after the regular season," Kemper said.

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