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Bosco’s Corner: PSAL rules take fun out of football

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There are budding problems for public high school football teams, problems that I think can seriously affect the quality of games and may possibly lead to several schools folding existing programs.

The Public School Athletic League has instituted a few new wrinkles to existing rules, including the elimination of two spots for the league’s citywide playoffs, as well as raising the mandatory number of players each team must carry.

In theory, the football playoff system set up by the PSAL seems like a good thing. Teams are given a power rating prior to the season — either one, three or five — based on last year’s performance and returning players. The teams accumulate power points with each win and by season’s end these numbers determine which teams go to the playoffs.

This system allows teams of equal strength to play one another throughout the season, making scheduling fair and ensuring that every team has the chance to win some games. It is similar, in fact, to the way the National Football League sets up its schedule, making sure that the best teams from a year ago play against tough competition, while the weaker teams play against squads of similar caliber.

But where the NFL system and the PSAL system differ greatly is that in the NFL all the teams have a realistic shot at the playoffs. If a team wins its division, it’s in, regardless of what else happens. The PSAL doesn’t have such a foolproof system. In fact, it’s a wonder why the PSAL even bothers with breaking teams down into geographic divisions, such as Queens.

There are 10 teams in Queens, August Martin, Bayside, Bryant, Long Island City, John Adams, Campus Magnet, Springfield Gardens, Flushing, Far Rockaway and Broad Channel. Of these teams only two, Bayside and Martin, have a five rating and as a result will not play all other Queens teams.

Bayside, for instance, will play three Queens teams out of its nine regular season opponents. Those three teams, Martin, Beach Channel and Campus Magnet, have typically been among the stronger teams to round out the borough. But the scheduling also eliminated Springfield Gardens as an opponent for Bayside, a game that has always proven competitive in recent years.

But that is not the main problem. For me, the PSAL points system eliminates too many teams from the playoffs. There are teams whose season has yet to begin that will be precluded from making the playoffs before ever playing a down.

Here’s how I see that. In theory, a team with the lowest power rating — one — can make the citywide playoffs only if that team wins enough games against stronger opponents and garners enough points. The problem with that is there are no teams with a one rating that will have that opportunity this year.

Just last year, Long Island City finished 6-2, including a win over Campus Magnet, which finished the regular season 5-3. Yet Long Island City did not make the playoffs and Magnet did, losing in the first round. Evander, a one-rated team, did make the playoffs last year, but was summarily trounced, something the PSAL took notice of, leading to the elimination of two playoff spots.

The top two seeded teams in the playoffs this year will receive byes, thereby eliminating two potential blowouts.

But that is just wrong. Every team rated a one this year has nothing to play for. There is no second-tier of playoffs for the weaker teams like there used to be. Where once there was hope of making the playoffs, there is none this year.

Making the playoffs is an accomplishment in itself, something to be proud of for these teams. Losing to the best team in the city is no crime, no matter how lopsided the score. The PSAL, however, doesn’t see it that way.

This power rating system also does away with something I see as paramount: regional rivalries. Bayside and Flushing should be archrivals, but because they seldom play one another, there is no rivalry to speak of. There are those that would say such a game would be a waste of everyone’s time because Bayside is so strong a team compared to the Red Devils.

But regional rivalries garner interest and school pride and could help to restore some of the weaker programs simply by the interest in such games.

As of now, there are teams in the borough that could struggle to make the newly imposed 25-man roster. Springfield has historically had small numbers, but always managed to compete. If coach Rod Schatt had 11 guys on his team, I still think they would give anyone in Queens a run for their money.

I would like to see the PSAL reinstate the borough championships and let schools play an all-borough schedule, with the best teams making the playoffs. But with such a huge disparity in talent and numbers from top to bottom, the PSAL should at least look to give the weaker teams a ‘B’ playoffs or bring back the Metro Division, which was done away with years ago in favor of the current system.

Again, the PSAL system has its merits, but all teams should have something to shoot for, a goal to reach. As it stands, that just isn’t going to happen this year.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

Posted 7:23 pm, October 10, 2011
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