Once a year, in a sight to behold, hundreds of oversized men pack a hotel ballroom to find out the WPIAL football playoffs pairings.
We all leave wondering how in the world the WPIAL came to its seedings, whether it’s just a blindfolded game of darts.
The answers don’t help.
“It was pick your poison,” said Gateway athletic director Randy Rovesti, chairman of the WPIAL football steering committee. “There was a lot of discussion. It wasn’t easy. I wish I could say it’s an exact science. It’s not.”
This isn’t as simple as slotting the conference champions into the top spots. The committee spends hours trying to get it right, yet no one leaves satisfied.
Sixty-four teams qualify for the WPIAL playoffs, and they all have a shot. Truth is, we tend to see the same dozen or so schools in the four finals over and over.
At least it’s not determined by point- or power-rating systems.
“Back in the day, when I was playing, it was pre-drawn,” WPIAL executive director Tim O’Malley said. “You try to make an honest attempt to arrive at a bracket to give teams the best chance to reach the semifinals.
“The merit of their work showed in years past: The Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 5 seeds reached the semifinals in every bracket last year, so it worked. I wouldn’t want to be the four-seed.”
Apologies to North Allegheny, Mars, Beaver Falls and Frazier, the No. 4 seeds in each class.
“Nah, that doesn’t bother me,” Mars coach Scott Heinauer said. “You can advance. Anybody can win. If it gets to that point, we’ll be happy we’re in there. You’ve got a chance. That’s all that matters. It’s single-elimination. You can’t make any mistakes.”
Unless, of course, you’re doing the seeding. Then all bets are off.