Hutton: Home field edge falls Merrillville’s way
By Mike Hutton 648-3139 or firstname.lastname@example.org November 3, 2012 11:18PM
Merrillville Pirate's Clevland Lomax (8) and teamate Dylon Collins (4) celebrate a touchdown aginst the Valparaiso Vikings during their game held at Merrillville High School in Merillvllle on Friday September 28, 2012. | Charles Mitchell~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 5, 2012 6:49AM
MERRILLVILLE — I can’t get this thought out of my head. It has to do with fairness and just plain common sense.
Merrillville absolutely should not get three straight home games in the high school football playoffs. No team should ever, ever get three straight home games. It just shouldn’t be allowed to happen.
On Friday, the Pirates face Fort Wayne Carroll at Demaree Stadium after they defeated Chesterton and Crown Point in rounds two and three of the Indiana High School Athletic Association state tournament at home.
They opened on the road at Munster.
The Pirates not only are blessed with the good fortune of having a roster full of great players and a dynamite coaching staff, they now will play three of their first four at home on the comforts of their own field turf.
It’s not their fault. Rather, it’s the Pirate’s luck and a quirk of a system that is possible because of some strange rules regarding which team gets to play at home.
Merrillville has fallen neatly through the maze of assorted random rules that guide the home team for the playoffs. Surprisingly, playing three of the first four at home isn’t unusual for teams that make it to the regional. Playing three straight at home is rare.
The Pirates opened on the road, which meant that because Chesterton played at home against Michigan City, they were the home team in the semifinal.
They got the CP game at Demaree because they were on the bottom of the bracket and both the Bulldogs and Pirates had played the same amount of road games at that point. Bottom of the bracket rules gets the game in that situation.
Now, they get the regional because Sectional 1 and Sectional 2, which is where Carroll plays, alternate home sites for the regional championship each year. Last year, Crown Point played at Penn at this point. The Bulldogs ended up playing three of four on the road then, just like Carroll has to do this year.
Morton has suffered the same fate as Carroll and on and on it goes.
This speaks to the randomness of the blind draw, which rewards nobody and regularly ruins championship games. Case in point would be Highland against Morton. I’m happy that the Trojans got to the finals, but it would’ve been more remarkable had they defeated East Chicago, a team that likely would’ve been seeded No. 1 in that sectional, in the first round.
Sorry to see that the Indiana High School Football Coaches Association can’t do better. Since they have all these arbitrary rules about who gets to play at home and when, they should insert one in there about teams not getting three straight home games. This seems like a fixable problem.
Can’t help but feel like everything is back to normal in the state of Indiana. The Hoosiers are ranked No.1 in basketball. This is how it should be.
Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke, always a man with a plan, looks like he’ll be batting .500 soon enough with his unique plan for having his coaches essentially intern a year before they’re hired.
Matt Painter, now in his ninth year, was pretty much the best fit for the job and Danny Hope, soon to be gone if the Boilermakers don’t turn it around, has been more like Jim Colletto than Joe Tiller, who retired from Purdue with a .584 winning percentage. After the loss to Penn State, Hope is hovering around .422. The idea that there is a fool-proof way to find the right guy for the job is a fantasy.