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MIKE LONDON COLUMN: Playoff plans revealed

As of Tuesday, there’s a plan for NCHSAA playoffs for the 2020-21 school year.

Mike London

Actually, it will look a lot like the old days, with the bloated playoff fields of recent years sliced in half and with predetermined playoff brackets, rather than brackets hinging on rankings. In other words, the No. 2 team from this league will play the No. 1 team from that league in the first round. That’s how it was for a long time. Then things got more sophisticated and more complicated.

It’s possible that, with predetermined brackets, two of the best five teams in the state might meet in the first round of the playoffs. But fans and parents just want games, while coaches and players just want to get on the field.

Playoff brackets that normally included 64 teams will now have 32. Football will have two 16-team brackets in each classification.

North Carolina is looking at four playoff weeks of football and just two weeks of playoffs in the other sports.

Football playoffs are scheduled for April 16 through May 8.

Boys and girls basketball playoffs will be from Feb. 23 through March 6.

Volleyball playoffs are Jan. 12-23, when there obviously will be some weather risks.

Boys soccer playoffs are from March 16-27.

Girls soccer playoffs and softball playoffs are May 3-15.

Baseball playoffs are June 15-26.

It will actually be nice to once again know exactly what a team needs to do to make sure it’s in the playoffs.

Conferences with six or fewer teams will be given one berth. Conferences with seven or eight teams will be given two berths. Conferences with nine or more teams will get three. If there are additional at-large spots, they will be based on conference winning percentage.

For instance, only one of those volleyball powerhouses in the six-team North Piedmont Conference is guaranteed a playoff spot. Usually, five of them make the playoff field.

Unfortunate casualties of the new schedule are dual team tennis and dual team wrestling championships. Those sports normally have a two-tiered season with both team and individual state championships. This time there will be only individual state championships.

Cross country regionals will be Jan. 16, with the state championships to follow. Swimming regionals will be Feb. 4-6, with state competition on Feb. 10-13.

Boys and girls golf regionals are set May 3-4, with state championships May 10-11.

Boys tennis regionals are May 7-8, with state championships May 14-15. Girls tennis regionals are June 18-19 , with state championships June 25-26.

Wrestling regionals are June 18-19, with state championships June 26.

The announced playoff schedule definitely will mean some sports overlap. Potential problems, yes. The basketball playoffs will conflict with the first two weeks of football season.

New “skill development” guidelines also were announced Tuesday, as expected.

There can be 50 outdoor participants now for those voluntary workouts, up from 25. Indoors, the number of participants allowed moves up to 25.

Volleyball and cross country are scheduled to be the first sports seasons to take place this school year, with the first practice Nov. 4 and the first contest on Nov. 16.

The first official day of football practice is a long way off — Feb. 8.

Mike London is a sports writer for The Salisbury Post. Contact him at mike.london@salisburypost.com.