There are a lot of questions about the Sunflower League standings swirling, so let’s clear things up.
Several places are posting inaccurate standings, which is easy to do given the convoluted nature of the league’s “official” scheduling, but here’s the current breakdown through the season’s seventh week:
2012 Sunflower League football standings Team, League W-L (Overall) Lawrence, 6-0 (6-1) SM West, 5-0 (6-1) Lawrence Free State, 4-1 (6-1) SM East, 4-1 (6-1) Olathe South, 3-2 (4-3) SM South, 3-3 (3-4) Leavenworth, 2-4 (3-4) Olathe East, 2-4 (3-4) Olathe North, 2-4 (2-5) Olathe Northwest, 2-4 (2-5) SM Northwest, 0-5 (1-6) SM North, 0-5 (0-7)
For those curious, during even years, like 2012, the last seven games against league opponents count toward league standings. It’s the first seven in odd years. With 11 teams in the league, a true round robin isn’t possible for football. The rationale for settling on seven games is that every teams plays at least seven league games. However, because of KSHSAA district formulas, some teams are required to play two out-of-conference games. Olathe East and SM South, for instance, are lumped into a district with BV Northwest and BV North from the EKL.
Thus, in an effort to ensure as fair a playing field as possible and ensure that all teams play the same number of league games, the cutoff has to be seven. It creates some oddities without a doubt.
For example, SM West beat Lawrence in the first game of the season, but it wasn’t a league contest for either team. The Chesty Lions, who have won six straight (all official league games since), dodged a bullet and currently lead the Sunflower League at 6-0. Before you get too upset for the Vikings, however, a week later Lawrence Free State doubled them up. But this time, it was SM West that got lucky, because it plays in a district with all Sunflower League teams and, as a result, its first two games don’t count toward league.
SM West is currently second in the Sunflower League at 5-0, a half-game behind Lawrence. That leaves Lawrence Free State and Shawnee Mission East, whose only loss of the season came later in the year, sitting and waiting for both the Lions and Vikings to stub another toe to get back into the league race. Both control their own fate in a sense with the Lancers battling SM West next Friday and the Firebirds playing at Lawrence in the season finale, making the possibility of a four-way tie for first place a real possibility.
It seems silly, but the alternative^ isn’t any more appealing. Let’s say all league games count toward the league standings, which would seem to make sense, right? For the sake of argument, let’s assume SM West and Lawrence win out, leaving both teams 8-1 overall. Because of district play, though, Lawrence, which has to play Wyandotte next week, would only be 7-1. Does SM West get the nod as league champion with its 8-1 mark and, thus, a better win percentage on the strength of pummeling winless SM North tonight – a team Lawrence didn’t get to play, but would also rough up just as the Vikings did 58-0?
It’s not a perfect example, because SM West topped Lawrence in the season opener this year and head-to-head would be a logical tiebreaker. But if there is no head-to-head meeting in a particular year then it’s a nightmare to choose the league champion. The result is the last-seven-games-in-even-years scenario, which isn’t perfect but it seems as fair as it’s going to get without an expansion to 11 or more weeks of football. And I don’t think KSHSAA is prepared to take that step to resolve league-title issues in an era when the league title only really matters to whatever teams wins it these days.
^My preference would be to split the league in football, creating the Sunflower League Upper and Lower then borrow from European football to relegate/promote one or two teams each season. It would allow for true round-robin play with only five league games required. It would also free up a game – maybe more each season to schedule with other Sunflower League rivals or even, God forbid, teams from other parts of the state or even Missouri. Obviously, it would depend on district arrangements again, but it would be fun, wouldn’t it? Teams would have to fight to stay out of the Lower division. Leavenworth or SM North could mount a challenge to earn a promotion some seasons, giving those programs a goal to shoot for that is attainable. It won’t happen, but I’d be all for it.
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