Sports

If we ruled the world, Alaska football would look different

The average weekend of high school football in Alaska produces far more blowouts than barnburners. As the state's high school administrators prepare to level the lopsided landscape by looking at realignment and reclassification possibilities, Alaska Dispatch News decided to tackle the issue too.

Our plan to make football more competitive and more accessible to more schools involves two bold moves:

• The creation of an eight-man division.

• The introduction of football at a handful of schools that currently don't offer the sport.

Currently, 30 schools field football teams; our proposal puts football in 41 schools. This is pure fantasy -- some schools on our list might not want to play football, while others we overlooked might jump at the chance to field an eight-man (or woman) team. We have no idea if the folks at Grace Christian, Su Valley, Nome or elsewhere even want a football team. We're just throwing things out there.

No more large-school, medium-school or small-school nonsense, the format that has been in place for 15 years and hasn't worked to level the playing field.

Instead of enrollment-based classifications, we propose two divisions: one for 11-man football and one for eight-man football.

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The 11-man division includes large, urban schools and established football-playing smaller schools like Soldotna, Kenai, Juneau and Eagle River but realigns them to put similar programs in the same conferences.

Each division would have three conferences and an eight-team playoff format, meaning 16 of the 41 teams would advance to the playoffs, a far better reward for excellence than what exists now. More than half of Alaska's football teams will make the playoffs this year thanks to an overly generous format that sometimes puts teams with losing records in the postseason.

For 11-man football, the Cook Inlet Conference would advance three teams to the playoffs and the other two conferences -- the Northern Lights and a new North/South Conference -- would each send two. The eighth spot would be an at-large berth.

For eight-man football, the top two teams in each of the three conference -- we're calling them the Railbelt, Greatland and Alaska conferences -- would advance and two at-large berths would be awarded.

This proposal is for entertainment purposes only. We won't decide what the football future in Alaska will look like. But we think this proposal would create more parity, keep natural rivalries alive and allow for a more meaningful regular season and more exciting playoffs. It would also allow more schools and athletes to play football and put the game in places it's never been.

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