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Getting it done right: Football coaches handle state seeding

'Honest to a fault' is common assessment

Oct. 15, 2012

The football coaches got it right, they got it done fairly and they were not without a sense of humor either.

That was the assessment of a quick and informal survey of coaches after they took control of the seeding process for the WIAA state playoffs for the first time in the championship program's 36-year history.

It was as conducted by and large as Germantown mentor Jake Davis said: "We're all adults here. We should be able to get it done."

The WIAA set up four eight-team groupings within each of seven enrollment-based divisions late on the night of Oct. 12 and then turned the coaches loose for their meetings on Oct. 13.

In the past, the WIAA did all the seeding. Over the years, there has been much chagrin and ample howling from coaches, the media and the fans about the fairness of that process.

Not so much this time.

"I think football coaches, more than any other group, have an honest evaluation of their programs," said Shorewood/Messmer's Drake Zortman, who was not unhappy with his seventh seed in his D2 group despite a 7-1 record. "We understand the pecking order because we're honest and critical of our teams almost to a fault."

"Ours went relatively smoothly," said Franklin's Louis Brown. "Everybody got a few minutes to talk about their teams and everyone was pretty severe and honest. There were a few appeals, but in the end, everyone wants to be where you feel you belong."

And Brown was pleased with his second seed in D1 bracket.

Playoffs start tomorrow

Level I games will be conducted around the area starting Friday and Saturday and the playoffs will continue to the championship finals Nov. 15 and 16.

In some cases, things were so cut and dried following the release of the groupings that it would lead to moments like the one Zortman spoke of.

"I talked to Tietjen (Whitefish Bay coach Jim Tietjen, the second seed in Zortman's bracket) at 9 in the morning on Saturday (a couple of hours before their seeding meeting was set to start) and I said '7 p.m. Friday at your place?' " Zortman recalled.

Which, of course, proved to be exactly the case.

"The coaches I talked to said their expectations of the seeding process were pretty much spot on," said Tietjen. "What was interesting is that at 11:30 (p.m.) Friday night I pretty much had our bracket done and it turned out almost exactly as I had predicted."

In short, people thought the process was in the right hands.

"I liked the idea from the start," said Oak Creek's Mike Bartholomew, whose team is unbeaten and earned the top seed in its D1 bracket. "There were some disagreements and some appeals, but everyone was very gentlemanly and professional about it."

"There was a lot of respect for one another out there," added Brookfield Central's Jamie Meulemans.

Going in alone

One little curiosity about the whole situation was that the head coaches could bring one assistant or helper along to the meeting. They couldn't speak on behalf of the team but they could offer advice to their respective head coach.

Zortman was unaware about this and came to the meeting alone. So when he saw people coming in in groups of two, he quickly got educated. He was almost laughing out loud when he saw Meulemans enter with his old former coach at Germantown, two-time state champion and state Hall of Famer Phil Datka, who is now on the Brookfield Central staff.

"Everybody had these Hall of Fame assistants and top-level people," Zortman said. "Next time I'm going to have to bring my posse, too (laughs)."

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