PIERRE — The South Dakota High School Activities Association will have an extra team on standby to fill in the bracket in case a team can’t play in the first round of the prep football playoffs.

The first team out of the playoffs will be the standby team in case COVID-19 keeps a team from participating in the field. The SDHSAA Board of Directors unanimously approved the measure — which is exclusively for the 2020 playoffs and only for the first round — during a special meeting Friday.

That means the No. 17 team in power points at the end of the regular season on Friday in Class 11B and nine-man classes will be the standby team, and the No. 9 team in the standings in Class 11AAA, 11AA and 11A at the end of the season after Oct. 22, will potentially be called upon.

The standby teams will not be re-seeded, so if, for example in Class 11B, the No. 11 seed has to miss their first round game due to COVID-19, they would be replaced by the standby team and would travel to the site of No. 6 for the first round game. All standby teams will be road teams in the playoffs.

The deadline for a team to decide on playing is noon on Wednesday, SDHSAA Assistant Executive Director John Krogstrand said. He compared it to a recent policy station to name an alternate to the state wrestling tournament’s 16-man brackets, where the 17th entry jumps in if a wrestler misses weight or is injured.

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The SDHSAA will not put additional teams on standby to fill more than one slot in the bracket. If additional teams have to miss out, forfeits will be considered, he said. Krogstrand said making the change allows the SDHSAA to maintain the playoff bracket.

Similarly, if teams have to drop out due to COVID-19 from the quarterfinals forward, forfeits will have to be the solution.

Krogstrand said that not having an automatic bye in the first round will at least provide some equity for all participating teams, because teams with first-round byes in past years provided a sizable advantage.

“It’s still making each playoff team prepare for a game, as opposed to a bye week, which we’ve seen was a significant advantage in the past,” he said. “Having that opportunity to play is what we’d encourage.”

Under SDHSAA rules, all teams — whether they make the playoffs or not — have the ability to continue practice until the state championships, which allows standby teams to continue to prepare after the regular season ends.

No extra games for teams missing playoffs

With that practice rule already in place, some SDHSAA schools asked the association to allow scheduling an additional game on the weekend of Oct. 22-24. But the SDHSAA Board of Directors turned down the request Friday.

Krogstrand said about five school districts had requested the opportunity to schedule an additional game to fill in for lost dates due to COVID-19. The idea would have allowed schools that missed their Senior Night or Homecoming games to potentially make those up, or allowed a co-op to play a home game on a field in a specific community that missed out. He said games were likely to have been scheduled on a regional basis, with schools in a remote area surrounded by playoff qualifiers likely not playing an additional game. Krogstrand said he did not expect many games to be added if the non-playoff exemption was passed.

The opposition surrounded the concern about injury amid the colder weather and the precedent for other sports that haven’t had the opportunity to add back games.

Michael Talley, of Rapid City Central, said he was concerned about the public pressure that would be placed on schools to schedule another game, while understanding the merit of getting another game in. Brookings’ Randy Soma said he was concerned about a potential precedent being set, given that soccer didn’t have the chance to add games and volleyball might ask for the same permission.

“I think that I have a tough time adding games on at the end of the year,” Soma said.

Krogstrand also indicated that some schools asked the SDHSAA not to approve the rule change, fearing they’d have community pressure to schedule another game when their focus is on maintaining in-person learning.

Faulkton Area High School Principal Craig Cassens, who is the SDHSAA’s Board Chairman, supported the measure, saying that the idea from the state’s efforts in the summer to bring back sports were to create as many opportunities for participation as possible. He said his school was one that lost a previously scheduled game this season, but admitted that Faulkton also doesn’t have a soccer program.

“I like the idea of this proposal myself,” Cassens said. “Maybe I come from a different animal, and because I know small schools like having local control. … My opinion is that it’s a good proposal and it’s squarely on the schools to make that call.”

Aberdeen Central’s Mark Murphy made a motion to adopt the measure and put it to a vote, but it died for the lack of a second.

Class 11AAA to have special seeding rules for playoffs

The meeting also clarified the plan for seeding the Class 11AAA playoff field, which has been affected by COVID-19. Traditionally, Class 11AAA plays a nine-game schedule among its 10 members, meaning it usually uses a round-robin format and does not use power points to determine playoff seeding.

This year, with some schools missing multiple games due to the coronavirus, the SDHSAA will start with using winning percentage to seed the teams and will use head-to-head results to potentially adjust those seedings. Teams in that situation can only move up one slot.

An example would if a team is seeded fourth and could have played all of their games, they could be moved up one position if the worse-seeded team could have had a matching record or better.

Krogstrand said the state’s 10 Class 11AAA athletic directors supported the rule change unanimously.

The criteria will only apply between two teams. In the case of a three-way tie, the state’s usual tie-breaking criteria will be used, starting with head-to-head, common opponents and power points.

The plan does not affect the other classes, which still use the power point formulas.