Published: Oct 26, 2011 02:00 AM
Modified: Oct 24, 2011 07:43 PM
The N.C. High School Athletic Association football pairings will be posted on Saturday after Friday night's final regular-season games.
The NCHSAA advances 256 of its 390 schools in one of eight 32-team brackets.
The pairings are simple to do on a step-by-step process, but the process as a whole is about as complicated as any playoff seeding in the country.
First, Conference presidents report records and league finishes to the NCHSAA. This is where most errors occur in the process. Almost every year at least one team's record is reported incorrectly.
Mistakes in reporting records happen so often that the NCHSAA is posting this week 10-game records, hoping discrepancies can be spotted early.
One problem is that teams don't count losses in endowment games. A 10-1 team with a loss in an endowment game is seeded as a 10-0 team. Endowment games are designated before the season and a portion of the game goes to NCHSAA endowment fund.
The top three finishers in most conferences advance to the playoffs. (Conferences with schools from more than one classification are an exception).
Once the automatic qualifiers are reported, the rest of the 64-team bracket is filled based on teams' overall records. Conference finish is not a factor in filling the bracket, just the overall record.
Once each of the four classifications has 64 qualifying teams, the qualifiers are arranged by average daily membership. The 32 qualifying teams with the highest enrollment in that classification go to the AA bracket of that classification, say the 4AA. The smaller 32 schools on the list go to the A bracket. The dividing results in 32 teams in each of the 4AA, 4AA, 3AA, 3A, 2AA, 2A, 1AA and 1A divisions.
Each of the 32-team sub-divided brackets, the 4AA, for example, is divided into East and West divisions according to longitude. This results in 16 teams in the 4AA East and 4AA West.
The 16-team subgroups are seeded. All the conference champions are seeded by their overall records. Then the league runners-up are seeded by records. Then the No. 3 finishers. No runner-up can be seeded higher than any champion within a subgroup. No third-place finisher can be higher than a runner-up.
After the top three finishers from each conference are seeded, the other qualifiers are seeded according to record. Conference finish is not a factor in seeding at this point. A No. 8 finisher, for example, could be seeded above a No. 4 finisher, depending on overall record.
Teams will keep their seeds throughout the playoffs.
The 16-team 4AA East bracket now is set with its seeded teams.
The bracket is split again by longitude to create eight-team pods. The eight western-most teams in the 4AA East go to the 4AA East's Mideast pod. The other eight go to the 4AA East's East pod.
The teams are paired according to their seeds.
That's it, except the whole process can be complicated further if tie-breaking procedures are invoked.
Conferences are allowed to choose their own methods for breaking ties.