BLITZ: Is the new format to crown a champ in the SAC a good one? Depends on who you ask

The SAC victory bell sits on the track at Homestead High School during a game in 2021. (Photo by Leslie Palmer)

When the new format for the Summit Athletic Conference was made public in January of 2022, it brought a lot of excitement.

The return of the opportunity to play a pair non-conference games was seen as a big step forward for a league that had been locked in to nine league contests over nine weeks since the addition of Homestead and Carroll in 2015.

There was also considerable support for the two-division format that split the bigger and smaller schools (with the odd exception of 4A Bishop Dwenger in the ‘big’ and 5A North Side in the ‘small), giving programs like Bishop Luers and Concordia Lutheran a chance to avoid playing all five ‘big’ schools each year.

But the process of crowning a champion was fuzzy from the beginning. Initially, it was thought that the SAC would adopt a ‘championship week’ format, which has been entertained in other leagues in Indiana and is currently used by the Hoosier Conference. In that format, the Week 9 schedule would see the division winners play, the second-place teams play, etc.

However, that was seen as troublesome in the sense that there would like be a few repeat matchups. In extreme circumstances, you could have teams potentially play three times in a season.

For example, Wayne and Bishop Dwenger, who are in separate divisions in the SAC. If they played in the regular season, then in Week 9 and again in Sectional 19 in which both of them are a part of, that would be three games in one season.

So that idea went nowhere.

It was then believed that the SAC would treat the divisions much like the Northeast Corner Conference does, effectively two distinct leagues. Big and small division teams play each other, but those cross-division games do not count in the division record, only interdivision games,

But that seemed problematic considering the Victory Bell is presented to the conference champion. Was the SAC willing to have two teams share the Bell every year?

So, that wasn’t going to work either.

The ‘solution’ was that all conference games played between Weeks 2 and 9 would count for your ‘division’ record.

Effectively, in this format the divisions don’t even matter. Standings are still dictated by overall conference record, meaning Bishop Luers currently stands alone at the top with a 5-0 record and Snider and Carroll are a game back, each at 4-1.

Are Bishop Dwenger and Homestead tied for second in the big division or tied for third with North Side in the overall SAC standings?

Both are correct, but only one matters.

Thus was created a loophole. With the unbalanced scheduling due to the non-conference weeks, a team could conceivably ‘win’ the conference by playing in the small division and avoiding two heavy hitters in the big division.

Turns out, that is exactly what’s happening in Year 1 of the new format.

Bishop Luers is undefeated in the league AND avoids the two best teams – Snider and Carroll. That means the Knights with one more win clinch at least a share of the SAC title and, with two dubs, captures the league outright while avoiding the Panthers and Chargers.

Is it fair? Well, it’s not against the rules.

Social media has been very vocal coming out of Friday about what people think about the situation. It’s safe to say that Bishop Luers fans don’t see anything wrong with the format, while Snider and Carroll fans have some beef.

Whatever happens, does the SAC need to re-evaluate the format?

Make no mistake, Blitz is not advocating a return to nine league games. The adoption of the two non-conference matchups are huge for teams – whether it be top-level squads facing off against the state’s best or the low-level programs looking for some on-field momentum.

But is there a better way?

These opinions represent those of Blitz and Outside the Huddle. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. Follow Blitz on Twitter at Blitz_OTH

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