Eight-Player Football
Blog: From the Director
Posted Tuesday, August 25, 2009

As high school football programs kick off their 2009 seasons this week, some schools are also looking to 2010 when the MHSAA may add an eight-player division to its Football Playoffs for those Class D schools which are struggling to start or maintain 11-player programs.

Michigan has a history of reduced-player football through the 1950s; and a few schools will play some or all of their schedules in the eight-player format in 2009.  Six-, eight- and nine-player football are gaining popularity in a dozen other states.
Class D schools (enrollment under 224) are to give the MHSAA a preliminary indication of their interest in the eight-player format for 2010 by Nov. 15, 2009, and a more definite commitment by April 1, 2010.  If at least 20 Class D schools are on board, the 2010 playoffs will include an eight-player division.

Only a few MHSAA schools will be playing varsity level eight-player games this year; and the schedules for such games are posted here on the MHSAA Football page.  One school – Carsonville-Port Sanilac – has a complete nine-game schedule.  Akron-Fairgrove High School has seven eight-player games.

Posen High School struggled to maintain an 11-player program, and is now struggling to put together a schedule of eight-player games.  After many years without any program, Michigan School for the Deaf has reinstated football, eight-player variety.

For more details on eight-player playoff planning so far, click here.


# gw
Friday, December 30, 2011 10:27 PM
Put me down as not being a fan of "8-player Football" (which I surround in quotes because it is a contradiction in terms). Schools which do not have the student population to field an 11-man team are free to form a cooperative program with other nearby schools; if they are unwilling to do so because of silly pride-based reasons (we want our own team or none at all), then I would rather the MHSAA were more didactic and made them go without. Moreover, not everybody can be accommodated; many schools across Michigan cannot, as a practical matter, field Ice Hockey teams, because of their geographic isolation. And the collective response is generally: that's unfortunate, but you're outta luck.

I would much rather that the MHSAA had gone to a system of universal playoff participation, as in other sports. Giving everybody the chance to make the playoffs and taste the excitement of the tournament would, I think, palliate at least SOME of the pressure for the "8-man" game. A universal format could is achievable; if you push the Finals back 1 week (to the weekend of the old Girls Basketball Finals) and cut a week from the regular season, you could invest those 2 weeks into the playoffs and everybody would qualify. You could even slice it down to 5 Divisions and cut some of the travel, too.
# alant@wolverine.k12.mi.us
Friday, December 30, 2011 10:28 PM
Who are you to say who should and should not have football? Have you ever been at a school that doesn't have football? I have been at both. I have been at a school with a perennial powerhouse football team and a school without football. The climates in both schools are drastically different. Would I rather have an 11 man team? Of course, but that option is not possible at a school with an enrollment around 100. I am guessing you are from a large school district that does not have enrollment or participation problems. I am also guessing you are not in any way employed by a school district. I work at a small school that does not have football. We have opened up a co-op with an area school and eventually lost those students to that school. I will leave you with one question: How does small schools moving towards 8 man football effect any 11 man teams?
# gw
Friday, December 30, 2011 10:29 PM
My hometown's school district, like most small districts, goes through cycles; some years it struggles to field a team and some years it has decent interest (there have been years when the total size of the squad was under 20, though). I just have very little sympathy for them; if they wanted to, they could easily form a co-op with the next little town over. They choose not to. That's their choice, but not one I think the MHSAA ought to be ratifying; that is the sort of parochialism that is hardly the lessons that educational athletics are supposed to teach the athletes.

Going to 8-man significantly affects 11-man teams. In my experience, Class D teams are more capable of competing successfully against Class C teams, than Class C teams are against Class B; for whatever reason, the economies of scale seem to really kick in when you make that transition. But with the 8-man option, it's inevitable that all (or a great many) Class D schools will start playing 8-man, which is an overreaction to a non-problem. The situation in the North Central Thumb League is an excellent example. With Carsonville-Port Sanilac, Akron-Fairgrove, and Owendale-Gagetown going to the 8-man game, the other Class D members will feel pressure to do the same (Kinde-North Huron, Kingston, and Peck); meanwhile, the Class C members (Memphis, Dryden) cannot play 8-man, and so are left "holding the bag" trying to devise new league arrangements which present manageable travel and competitive equity, even though the league itself was competitive. (Note: I am not affiliated with any of these towns/teams; just a convenient example.)
# gw
Friday, December 30, 2011 10:30 PM
In your example above, you use the North Central Thumb League.
Let me give you a different situation to look at:
In that league you have Owendale-Gagetown which does co-op with Caseville School. This year there was not enough players even combining the schools to run an 11-man varsity team, and they are unable to have a junior varsity team as well. The kids playing on varsity consist of grades 9-12.
Last year they struggled with an 11-man team. Students were completely exhausted well before the end of the game.
Why shouldn't these students be allowed to continue to play the sport the love? It is certainly not hurting the 11-man teams. Kinde, Kingston, Peck, Dryden & Memphis may have to present manageable travel, etc, but so do A-F, O-G and CPS who compete with teams that are sometimes 2 hours away.
# gw
Friday, December 30, 2011 10:31 PM
I'm not sure what you mean when you say that the kids on varsity are from grades 9-12. Maybe I just have only been exposed to small schools but that sounds normal to me. Perhaps at an "A" or big "B" school you have the luxury of only upperclassmen on your varsity team but that is not my background.

Nothing is stopping O-G and/or Caseville from forming a cooperative program with EPBP-Lakers. A-F could form a co-op with USA or Caro or even Cass City if they wanted. Obviously, EPBP-Lakers and/or USA and/or Caro and/or Cass City would have to go along, and I have no knowledge of what their thinking would be. But, I would much rather the MHSAA put in places rules or procedures that would in some circumstances compel the larger school to accept the small neighboring school in a co-op, than allow this 8-man option.

In the majority of circumstances, there are other ways of resolving this problem than going to 8-man Football.
# gw
Friday, December 30, 2011 10:32 PM
Generally 11 & 12 grades play varsity with exception to talented 10 graders that can make the cut. 9 & 10 would play Junior Varsity. Even with the 8-man O-G/Caseville do not have enough kids to play Junior Varsity leaving all 9-12 on Varsity.

I kind of agree with you on co-op with a bigger school such as Lakers or Cass City etc if that were possible being a different league and all that way kids that are 100 lbs are not facing much larger ones. ( a 13-14 yr old facing a 17-18 yr old), but on the other hand if per say O-G kids did co-op with Lakers you would end up cutting kids that wanted to play due to skill because there would be so many on that team.

It seems that there are several ways to look at the situation, but I would have to say that going to 8-man football is allowing these schools to participate in football. Schools that have went without football for years. I am glad they have the opportunity to play rather than not. To see the joys of students and energy of schools such as Eastern Washtenaw Multicultural Academy and Michigan School for the Deaf who hasn't played football since 1985 is well worth it.

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