Sometimes words have two meanings, as Led Zeppelin taught us, and when we’re in late October or early November, bye has only one connotation to those of us paid to keep our tunnel vision directed at high school football. It’s the off week which some of the best teams in the state receive as a “reward” in order to keep the playoff field at a manageable size.

I have to tread lightly on this issue, in the interest of consistency, because I’m the first one to point out that the playoff bracket in high school football is too large. All four classes in Northern Maine and Class A South compromise in this area by inviting six teams to the playoff dance, not a restrictive four or a permissive seven.

It helps eliminate some egregious matchups, but it leaves a handful of 8-0 and 7-1 teams twiddling their thumbs and burning off two weeks of restless energy while the third through sixth seeds play a quarterfinal round.

Coaches are mixed on the merits of this bye week, and as is sometimes the tendency of coaches, their feelings tend to be situational. If the week without a game benefits them this season, then by golly, it’s a fantastic idea. If their team has questionable attention to detail, they might dread the idea of hard-earned momentum flying out the window.

After examining the value and the perils of the bye, I have to say I’m a fan. It gives you a chance to shed some of the nagging aches and pains that afflict every team at this time of year. It prevents you from getting players hurt while they’re playing half-speed in a game they might win 49-0. It furnishes double time to dissect film, watch your two potential opponents live, and shore up the small stuff at practice.

What’s not to love about that? Or are you going to tell me that I’ve said “bye” to clear thinking and common sense?


Pelletier: You said “bye” to clear thinking and common sense long ago, Senor Oakes. You do, after all, make your home where winter reigns for five months.

As for the topical byes of which we speak, after two weeks of basically agreeing on everything, I am finally going to call your bluff on this one.

Byes are hooey.

Given the disparity that continues to exist between echelons in the high school ranks (no matter how many classes people try to add), top teams generally have their bye weeks built into the season.

Unless you played in Class B South this season. That region was just crazy.

Heck, Class D South already had byes built in to the season because of a complete lack of willingness to reschedule, something that would have taken maybe a half hour.


But I digress. Instead of letting players sit around and get cold, stale and disinterested, why not extend the regular season, and then let fewer teams into the playoffs. In divisions where there are fewer than 10 teams, allow more crossovers to fill the weeks.

Then, take four teams from each region. This allows you to skip the games you described — those blowouts — and still not short-change any team on getting its ninth game in. Heck, more teams would get an extra game. That would appease the “more-games-builds-character” crowd, too … right?

Oakes: The problem with Class D South was an odd number of teams (nine), which meant somebody had a bye every week unless they incorporated, yes, crossover games.

That would have required cooperation, which never happens when people start squawking about travel time in this you-can’t-get-theyah-from-heah state. And when you have crossover games, you create an unbalanced schedule. And when you have an unbalanced schedule, you set yourself up for a whole lotta cryin’ from the fifth-place team that the Crabtree and/or Heal points done ’em wrong if you only take four teams intto the playoffs. Especially if that number is less than half the number of teams in the conference.

Don’t misunderstand me. I dislike byes. I just think they’re the best we can do until we come up with a system that puts exactly 10 teams in each region so we can have a nine-game, round-robin schedule. And until we have precisely 80 teams — no more, no less — that never will be possible.

‘Tis magnified by the precarious numbers game at least a half-dozen of those teams are in just to survive an entire season at the varsity level. But that’s a past (and probably future) column, isn’t it?

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