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A Look Forward: How Could We Avoid Classifications For Now and Still Improve the Playoffs

  Over the past few months I’ve been asked over and over about the possibility of lacrosse going to a classification system similar to many other sports in the state of Florida.  We have nearly 200 Boys and 200 Girls high school programs in this state and seriously about 8 schools that could win the Boy’s title last season.  Many programs are frustrated at not being able to be competitive enough and some would welcome a second classification to open up the possibility of a second state title to play for.  Some of that debate has broken down among Public vs Private high schools, Small vs Large and any sort of approach. The first thought that was put forward was along this: A preliminary proposal, as noted in the Presentation Packet passed out for the September 5th presentation to the FHSAA (  There are 3 classes and they are not equal numbers by any means.  No public vs. private, no population-based approach.  And it looks like Districts are not available for playoffs.  It was divided by Top 32, Next 64 and all the rest, according to the MaxPreps rankings for the two years prior to the presentation. According to what I have been told, this approach HAS BEEN TABLED and not under consideration at this time.  That’s good because I can’t think of a WORSE way to go.  The classification approach for lacrosse is considered a work in progress and WILL NOT be voted on for the next FHSAA Board of Directors meeting.  And I have no further knowledge of what is being contemplated, if anything, for now.  There is no Lacrosse Advisory Panel currently in place and one would hope that one is populated before we make any drastic changes. Which leaves us with the current situation for now. But MaxPreps is definitely in the mix going forward and we might as well see how its’ impact could be implemented. MaxPreps has partnered with the FHSAA for a number of sports and has developed their own version of a Power Ranking, both at the state level and the national level.  I don’t know how it differed from what LaxPower produced but I can assure you that math, no matter how simple or complex, does not get things always right.  And I never substitute it for what my eyes tell me when watching this sport. But the FHSAA has decided to go with them so let’s look at how this could effect FHSAA championship fields going forward.  One thing to note, when looking at the 2018 season in retrospect is that there are ONLY 138 ranked teams in the final MaxPreps.  Part of that is simple to explain, MaxPreps required 15 game scores to be entered to have the school show up in the rankings and since it was inclusive of District playoffs it shouldn’t have been tough to make the cut. GIGO Everyone knows that shorthand for Garbage In, Garbage Out. Using ANY power ranking approach REQUIRES as much information as possible from the participants and certainly entering Schedules and Results are the TOP of that need.  Far more important than individual statistics.  More important than ANYTHING ELSE. Rain outs not made up could be crucial if the 15-game limitation is not met.  I know that before the recent season even a storied program like Saint Andrew’s was looking to add games and might not have gotten to 15 if a rain out was not made up.  Another factor to take into consideration is that some of our top programs play STIFF out of state games.  MIAA, Long Island, Georgia and Texas teams are making trips this season to our state and some of our teams are traveling north too.  How does MaxPreps handle out of state competition if it is outside of Florida? We’ll reach out to MaxPreps to gain some more insight as we go on. One thing FLN has done is to go through the final 2018 power rankings they generated and played around with some possible scenarios given a multiple of options the FHSAA could choose. The results are pretty eye opening. The 2018 FHSAA bracket on the Boy’s side (for simplification reasons we’ll only show samples on the Boy’s side but it likely will replicate itself on the Girl’s) listed 32 teams, all District Champions.  Here are the 32, with their MaxPreps final ranking in parentheses and separated into their quadrants:  
North Quadrant   Gulf Coast/Treasure Quadrant
Gulf Breeze (29)   Cardinal Mooney (6)
Chiles (46)*   Canterbury (23)
Oak Hall (12)   Gulf Coast (34)
Bolles (80)   Barron Collier (52)
Fletcher (63)   Merritt Island (49)
Ponte Vedra (5)   Melbourne Central Cath (36)
St. Augustine (24)   St. Edward’s (30)
Lake Mary (22)   Jupiter (1)
Total: 281   Total: 231
Tampa/Orlando Quadrant   Southeast Quadrant
Winter Park (13)   Oxbridge (4)
Lake Highland Prep (42)   Saint Andrew’s (2)
West Orange (20)   Stoneman Douglas (32)
Bishop Moore (3)   St. Thomas Aquinas (9)
All Saint’s Academy (43)   Western-Davie (37)
Newsome (21)   Belen Jesuit (27)
Sickles (25)   Gulliver Prep (68)
Tampa Jesuit (8)   Key West (87)
Total: 175   Total: 266
*Chiles – Did not compete   IMG was ranked #7 by MP but not eligible
  For those wondering, the highest rated teams not in the brackets: Benjamin (10), Nease (11), The King’s Academy (14), American Heritage-Delray (15), Plant (16), American Heritage-Plantation (17), Saint John Paul II (18) and Riverview-Sarasota (19). All of those teams lost their District final to higher rated teams. When I look at some of those rankings I certainly have to raise some questions.  The King’s Academy is a growing program and most of their top players were freshmen and sophomores, but they were not the 14th best team in the state last year.  They would not have given Lake Highland a good game last season.  So already there are some questions about the methodology to explore.  
So, now, how can we improve on that bracket, while making the playoff season more inclusive and more exciting?
  1. Increase the tournament to 64 teams from 32
  2. District Winners plus the next 32 from MaxPreps rankings based on the 4 quadrants geographically
  3. Seed the 16 teams in each quadrant and re-seed each round
  4. Continue the tradition of how the home team is chosen but find a way to give the District Winner the first round home game
  Another option would be to take the Top 32 non-District winners and if necessary shift a few teams around to balance the quadrants geographically. How would that have worked out last season? We’ll take that up tomorrow.