Soucie: A challenge for creative scheduling

No playoffs? Make your own

As time dwindled on the available weeks remaining to play a football season during the spring season, a regular postseason seemed less and less likely.

In a sport that allows for only one game a week, with a postseason that encompasses about 500 playoff-eligible schools, any system that had less than 100 classifications requires a certain amount of weeks to be available for a true bracket system to be played.

As always, I started to look for creative alternatives.

And I think I’ve found some.

I can’t take full credit for my major idea that you are about to read. I was tipped off to what the Big Twelve Conference is planning to do with this season a few months ago. Since then I can’t get it out of my head.

And I can’t think of a better implementation of this plan than for the 24 teams in the Chicago Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Conference. They already have built the framework to make this the ideal situation.

After doing a comprehensive study of the conferences during the offseason, one thing became clear, the CCL/ESCC Blue (No. 1), CCL/ESCC Green (No. 3) and CCL/ESCC Orange (No. 4) are among the elite groupings in the state.

In a year when we can’t have a state tournament, why not solve who is the dominant team in a dominant league or region?

Here’s how it works.

In the case of the CCL/ESCC the framework already has been established. There are 12 teams across those three leagues. The Blue consists of Brother Rice, Loyola, Marist and Mount Carmel. The Green is made up of Montini, Providence, Notre Dame and St. Rita. The Orange has Benet, De La Salle, Nazareth and St. Laurence.

Those groupings could remain the same or balanced in another way to account better equity. I’ve power ranked every program over the past decade if you need some help. Just saying.

But let’s just say that we’ll leave the groups the same for now.

The first three weeks of the season would be pool play against the teams in your group. Think World Cup soccer.

After the pool play segment of the schedule, a bracket is formed. Winners of each group are the top three seeds. Second place teams are the fourth through sixth seeds. Two of the third place teams would make up the seven and eight seeds, which would be decided by a universal tiebreaker such as fewest points allowed in pool games.

The remaining third place team would be placed in a consolation pool where they once again would be in pool play to allow every program to get in their six games.

Back to the main bracket. Quarterfinal round of the bracket would be Week 4. Losers of the quarterfinal games would go into consolation round games in Week 5, while winners move onto the semifinals. Week 6 would feature the title game, third-place game, fifth-place game and seventh-place game.

Let’s use last year’s results as how this could play out.

1. Mount Carmel (3-0, 41 points allowed in league games)

2. Nazareth (3-0, 42 points)

3. Niles Notre Dame (2-1, 21 points)

4. St. Rita (2-1, 45 points)

5. Benet (2-1, 51 points)

6. Marist (1-2, 44 points)

7. Montini (2-1, 84 points)

8. Loyola (1-2, 45 points)

Montini was given preference in the third-place pool by finishing with two wins rather than one.

The consolation pool would include St. Laurence (1-2, 77 points) and the fourth place finishers from the other divisions: Brother Rice, Providence and De La Salle.

The bracket would look like this with every attempt to not matchup quarterfinal opponents.

#7 Montini at #1 Mount Carmel

#5 Benet at #4 St. Rita

#8 Loyola at #2 Nazareth

#6 Marist at #3 Niles Notre Dame

And away we go.

But what about the remaining teams? Here’s the beauty of that. The Purple, Red and White Divisions also have exactly 12 teams. And potentially they could do exactly the same thing.

This formula certainly isn’t reserved to the CCL/ESCC. If you’ve got 12 teams, it works. And there’s a lot of you out there. And here’s a little secret, it also works with 16 teams.

Maybe you’re short on the 12 teams. Ok, go find a partner league. Share resources for a year. Build some new alliances. Without the constrictions of worrying about classification for a year, extend an olive branch to a team or two without the same conference allegiances.

In the offseason, I put together a proposal that linked every team in the state in a six team region based on school size. Build a six team region. Let your neighbors do the same. Play those five games, then round robin that format with the neighboring region. 1 vs. 1, 2 vs. 2 and so on. Have the schools involved design a trophy.

This season might not be exactly what we wanted it to be. But let’s squeeze every ounce of fun that we can out of it.

We all deserve that.

Steve Soucie

Steve Soucie has been the Sports Editor at the Joliet Herald News since August of 2018. Prior to that, Soucie worked at the Kankakee Daily Journal and for Pro Football Weekly.