Fans who invest their time merit a better reward
- Cliff Pfenning
- Portland Tribune - Sports
The 16-team high school basketball state tournament will come to an end next week, and it's about time.
No, really, it's about time, that precious commodity people take for granted.
Who has the time to watch a team's run through a state tournament anymore? Four games in four or five nights? Even the NBA doesn't subject its teams and fans to that postseason schedule.
Time is the key reason fewer people show up at high school events. There are so many other things to do and so much reality television to watch. Why would anyone from Lincoln follow the girls team to Hermiston for a playoff game? Even if the Cardinals had won, they still would have needed to win four more games to be the state champion.
So, it's about time the Oregon School Activities Association, which runs the championships for high school athletics, did something to help its member schools.
It's moving to be more efficient, more focused. Now, the OSAA has the challenge of reworking the state bracket next season into something new and interesting that will help rejuvenate interest in the tournament, which will consist of eight teams at all classifications, from 4A to 1A.
Here's an idea: regionalization.
In December, Sports Illustrated printed a story about the decline of Indiana prep hoops since the state abandoned a one-classification format (imagine Columbia Christian having to play Jesuit in an early-round game). Part of that one-class tournament included district play. Teams had to play their way out of their region to get to the championship game.
One appealing aspect of this is that it would mean regular fans could actually go to those games. That would be the scenes where townspeople followed the team bus to away games in the movie 'Hoosiers.'
Under this regionalized format, the 36-team playoff bracket for Oregon's Class 4A schools would be split in two, with half for the five Portland area districts and half for the other four districts. Teams from the five Portland area districts would play for four spots in the eight-team state tournament.
(To see what this year's state playoffs might look like under this regionalized format, go to www.portlandtribune.com/tourneybracket.gif)
This format goes against the current trend of better play from Portland area teams, especially in girls basketball. Last year, five quarterfinalists in the 4A girls tournament were from the Portland area. In each of the previous two years, the area had six quarterfinalists.
There's nothing wrong with having good teams lose before the state tournament. Currently, teams that finish second, third and fourth in their leagues linger around in the playoffs for a week, while the best teams, the ones most likely to win the state title, lay dormant, waiting. How does that generate interest in the state tournament? It doesn't.
This is why the NCAA makes its best teams, the teams that generate the most interest, play in every round. Good teams playing interesting games is the way to make the state playoffs more interesting, not seeding the tournament so the best teams have the best chance to win, which is how the state's coaches 'fixed' the 16-team tourney two years ago.
If fans are going to take the time to see a game, they should be rewarded by seeing a good game, one that leads to a team's potentially winning the state title.
If that means the state's No. 1 team loses before the eight-team tournament, it also means one team has that win to its credit. And everybody loves an underdog Ñ just look at the backlash against the Oregon City girls going on this week at the Chiles Center.
Time is money for sports fans. Making the time that fans spend at playoff games more valuable should increase the money the OSAA will claim as net revenue from its basketball tournaments, which is the organization's ultimate goal.