Derek Taylor: Technology creeps into football’s postseason
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. -- As much a part of the high school football playoffs as unpredictable November weather, the coaches' meetings at the Secondary School Activities Commission might go the way of the small-town, single-community high school.
Representatives from each of the state's 48 teams that qualify for the postseason in three different classes meet each Sunday prior to their scheduled games at the SSAC offices.
As teams are eliminated from the tournament fields, fewer are called back to the home office for subsequent rounds.
Coaches trade game films, higher-seeded teams pick game sites, lower-seeded teams pick the day and time of the game and various SSAC officials go over mileage reimbursements for road teams and host procedures for game day, and so forth.
This can be taxing for coaches, who are not reimbursed for the trip nor are they technically required to attend the meetings. Musselman Coach Denny Price, for instance, spent Friday and Saturday nights in Parkersburg after the Applemen defeated Capital at University of Charleston Stadium on Friday.
"It doesn't really make sense to drive all the way back to the Eastern Panhandle after a game just to drive back to Parkersburg on Sunday morning," Price said. "Me and our athletic director just stayed here."
A frequent visitor to the postseason, Bluefield Coach Fred Simon has only attended a handful of these meetings in the 15 years I've covered prep football. He has yet to make an appearance in 2012, and Frankfort Coach Kevin Whiteman was absent Sunday as well.
It is not simply grousing by coaches over getting up early or spending an extra day or two away from home that led SSAC Executive Director Gary Ray to briefly address the situation in meetings that set the quarterfinal fields.
Morgantown Coach John Bowers said an online service could eliminate the need for coaches to make the trip at all.
"Huddle.com is a website that's passcoded, and you can put all your films online, register your kids as users and with a valid email address they can get on there and watch films," Bowers said.
More importantly, the site offers a share feature. In fact, Bowers and Huntington Coach Billy Seals are both members of the site, and traded game films Saturday after Morgantown beat Point Pleasant in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs.
The fifth-seeded Mohigans (9-2) will play at No. 4 seed Huntington (9-2) on Friday.
"You can trade. I can trade with (Coach Dave) Walker at Martinsburg and we don't have to meet some place in Maryland to do it," Bowers said. "You offer a trade, and when they accept it, the films just transfer over to each other."
Bowers was quick to point out he is not waging a war against the SSAC. He did note that, "This is 2012. The technology exists that could basically make these meetings obsolete, yes."
When coupled with a conference call among athletic directors to settle times and places for games, trips to Parkersburg each week through November for winning teams could, and maybe should, become a thing of the past. Ray said there are other things to consider.
Not the least of these concerns is cost. Bowers estimated that a year's membership at the site cost $500. That would be a tough sell to programs that aren't frequent playoff participants.
"It's about your kids," Ray told the groups of coaches on three separate occasions while addressing the matter to the Class AAA, Class AA and Class A playoff fields.
"The media are here to give you an opportunity to talk about your kids, and that's an important part of all this."
True enough, but if athletic directors and/or game administrators can select dates and locations for games via conference call, reporters could be granted the same opportunity to speak with each playoff coach at some time each Sunday.
Few newspapers make the weekly trip to Wood County. The Daily Mail, The (Clarksburg) Exponent Telegram and The Parkersburg News are the only print outlets that take advantage of the gathering. It's a more efficient way of finding story material than waiting for coaches to return phone calls while they are preparing for a playoff game.
Just the same, a Sunday morning at home with a cup of coffee and some bacon is as welcome to a sportswriter as it is to a coach.