For one last year, the state of Michigan's playoff system gives an automatic playoff bid to teams that win 6 games. The annual hunt for 6-wins has made it really difficult for a lot of teams to schedule games in-state, and has left some of the top programs in Michigan with no other option to fill their schedule than to play teams in Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, and even Canada.
The past several years in particular, there have been a number of programs who were unable to find a 9th game, and MHSAA rules state that 5-3 teams that were unable to fill that 9th game will also get an automatic bid. A growing number of 5-3 teams will make the final cut this year.
Next season, in an attempt to solve some problems and shake things up a bit, the state has decided to adopt a strength of schedule component to aid with the scheduling difficulties, and divisions will be predetermined at the beginning of the year (instead of the current model where divisions are based on the enrollment of the schools who make the playoffs) meaning that the 6-wins and in model (with 5-4 teams able to earn at at-large bid) is officially done. Starting in 2020, 7-2 teams with a weak strength of schedule may be left out, while 3-6 and 4-5 teams may be headed for the playoffs if they played a challenging enough schedule.
For now though, heading into the final week of the regular season, a number of teams are sitting at 5-3 and effectively battling for their playoff lives. Two of those programs are located on the east side of the state near Detroit in Chandler Park and Bloomfield Hills Cranbook Kingswood.
According to a report from the Detroit Free Press, the two teams had a verbal agreement in place to play week 9 - the final week of the regular season. Chandler Park was set to play two Catholic League games - Orchard Lake St. Mary's week 3 (where Chandler Park HS would get $2,000), and then the fourth-place team from the Catholic League in week 9, which ended up being Cranbrook.
However, according to Chandler Park coach and athletic director John Jergovich, the two never had a formal contract, so he has opted to not play the game.
The reward? An automatic bid into the MHSAA playoffs at 5-3 because they only played an 8-game schedule. The price? A public PR hit, and very likely that the Catholic League will not be looking to Chandler Park for games in the future, perhaps in any sport.
Cranbook had rented lights for their week 8 game, and decided to do a community fundraiser to keep the lights for this week, and then Chandler Park decides to hide behind the "we didn't sign anything" argument.
This isn't the only obscure playoff rule in high school football that's a head scratcher. We heard earlier this week from a coach in Mississippi that teams that do not field a JV team for the duration of the season are not eligible to make the playoffs. This particular program faced the unenviable decision of moving up under-developed middle school kids to play on the JV team for a few weeks to keep the hopes of the Varsity team's playoff chances alive, or to fold the JV and hope to appeal to the state to reconsider the rule.