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Bizarre playoff rules: Coin flips for home field, series length

Regardless of specific sport, one thing about high school playoffs is consistent: Home-field advantage is just that, an advantage. It's what teams play all season for, hoping to rack up the best possible record to set up the best possible playoff matchups … at home. Imagine a playoff system that didn't award a home-field advantage to teams with a better record, regardless of round?

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Ryan Garvey and Trevor Gretzky

Ryan Garvey and Trevor Gretzky

Well, you don't have to imagine it. You just have to take a casual glance at the baseball and softball playoff tournaments in California's Southern Section, which has featured stars like Ryan Garvey and Trevor Gretzky, above, where home-field advantage for a superior record never even enters the discussion.

If the Southern Section just insisted on hosting all playoff games at neutral sites, that would be one thing. Yet, the Southern Section does something even more bizarre: It decides home-field advantage based on a coin flip.

Yes, you read that right. One of California's most significant regions decides which team gets to host all of its playoff matchups by random coin flip. The only round in which record dictates home-field advantage is the first, in which a highly seeded team is almost assured to advance in due course. From there out, it's coin flips to determine who has the most vital advantage possible.

L.A. Times high school sports blogger Eric Sondheimer kicked up dust about the procedure in late May, though his pleas about the ruling's relative insanity appear to have done little to force change (so far). Perhaps there's a reason for that: The Southern Section's coin flip insanity is hardly the only bizarre playoff baseball procedure in the nation.

For example, take Texas' University Interscholastic League, which decides whether playoff series are one or three games in length based on coaches' decision or, if the coaches disagree (which they nearly always do) -- you guessed it -- a coin flip. Naturally, a one-game series is almost always a significant advantage for an underdog, as it's certainly easier to steal one unexpected victory than two.

Which of those bizarre coin flip rulings is more bizarre … and harmful to the hopes of the appropriate strength team reaching the latter rounds of the state playoffs? Who knows. They're both bizarre and probably inappropriate at best. All we can do is hope that someone with common sense attempts to change them in the future, the sooner the better.

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