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A new classification plan may not be what Tennessee's Division I prep football-playing schools want.

What they really want is a different method for deciding who plays for state championships.

The path to the playoffs was straightforward — the top four region finishers advanced — until the six-class postseason plan was adopted beginning in 2009. But determining participants has become a challenge for the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association's staff and been all but impossible for coaches and fans to understand, resulting in regular tweaks.

During this week's Board of Control meeting, the latest tweak was a new proposal, placing the top 32 teams in Class 6A and dividing the rest into five regions.

Coaches mainly want less weight placed on overall wins — a major criticism with the current system — with hopes that regular-season scheduling would become less difficult regardless of how teams are classified.

Overton first-year coach Steve Williams and Franklin coach Donnie Webb said the new proposal would appear to do that. All 32 6A teams would make the playoffs, along with the top four teams in each of the other regions, based on their region record.

"Right now, you have to get so many wins to qualify (for the playoffs)," Webb said. "From that sense, it (proposed plan) gives you an opportunity to play teams you wouldn't normally play."

"I think it makes scheduling easier," Webb said. "When overall wins is the No. 1 (tiebreaking) criteria, it does make you schedule differently."

Another selling point is that enrollment differences in each class would be narrowed, addressing a particular concern with a number of administrators.

Currently, there is a difference of more than 1,300 students between the smallest Class AAA school and the largest. In Class AA, the difference is 534 and it's 421 in Class A. Each class is divided in two for the playoffs.

Under the new proposal there is no class range wider than 667.

"We think the new plan is what we need to take a very serious look at — not just for one issue, but for how it affects every football school in the state," TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said. "This addresses a lot of issues."

Franklin and Overton would be among the 32 largest schools and in Class 6A, which would be split into four regions — eight teams in the Knoxville area, nine teams in Memphis and 15 teams in Middle Tennessee split into two regions.

Cookeville, Warren County, Mt. Juliet, Wilson Central, Oakland, Siegel, Blackman and Riverdale would be in one. Franklin, Ravenwood, Overton, McGavock, Antioch, Smyrna and LaVergne would be in the other.

To open the playoffs, region champions would face the No. 8 team from another region, and so on.

Webb doesn't like that all 32 Class 6A teams would make the playoffs.

"I understand what the thought is, and I do think it will appease some of the concerns that many schools have," Webb said. "But I think we need to have to earn our way into the playoffs."

For Fairview, the logistics of the new plan create "a nightmare," coach Chris Hughes said. The Yellow Jackets would be projected into a Class AAA region that also includes Page, Marshall County, Giles County, Cannon County, DeKalb County and Upperman.

"Can you imagine what that will do to our gate when Cannon County, DeKalb County and Upperman come to our place?" Hughes said. "And when we go to their place, we're not taking fans, either.

"It kills the smaller schools. It doesn't make sense financially. It's one thing to say travel doesn't matter; it's another to travel 2½ hours for a regular-season game. And in Williamson County, we can't get a bus until 4 p.m. It's going to be a nightmare.

"Either go back to five classes, or leave it like it is. If you want six, leave it like it is and adjust the tiebreaker criteria. The first criteria of overall wins has got to change."

The board tabled discussion on the proposed plan until its August meeting. The earliest it would take effect is the 2015 season.

Reach Maurice Patton at 615-259-8018 and on Twitter @mopatton_sports.

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