The WVSSAC is exploring the availability of 8-man football in West Virginia. The Coalfields and Co. brand has several writers and personnel at their disposal. Every single member of the staff at the company is 100% in favor of exploring this development. Football provides a special bond among players and presents an atmosphere at a school such as Homecoming and Friday Night Light experiences that all students should have the opportunity to participate in.
What is 8-man football? Exactly what it sounds like. Over 1,500 schools in the United States play this version. The rules are very much the same considering the basic play elements. Field sizes vary but the standard is 40-yard width (opposed to 53) and 80-yard length (opposed to 100). The three missing players tend to be the two offensive tackles alongside a skill position and two defensive backs plus one defensive lineman. It has found astounding success in regions with small schools.
There are several schools in the state who have small enrollments and are having a tough time providing enough players to field a team (Hundred, Parkersburg Catholic). Needless to say, there are many small schools that would field a team if presented a viable option to do so (Charleston Catholic, Greater Beckley, Trinity). 8-man football is a growing option in many states. They have a great following and field some pretty good programs. The shortened roster sport in some states is a hot ticket. Many schools that field 8-man teams get a lot of crossover fans who like to see a different brand of football.
With the need for a smaller amount off players to participate, schools could have the ability to field a team and present their school all the benefits of what football brings. With a smaller number of players participating the cost of fielding a team would be less. With the smaller numbers participating the need for a large coaching staff and the salaries that it would need to make it fiscally viable would make it doable. In 8-man football, the fields do not have to be changed, and this makes the atmosphere worth examining.
The only negative option we have discussed concerning the evaluation of 8-man football is logistics. How many teams will participate and how far the travel needed will be is a concern. However, most of these schools are used to traveling in other sports so that may not be that big of an issue. However, if there is only six teams participating, is it really worth the full-scale acceptance by the WVSSAC? Of course, we are in support and say who cares if it’s 8 or 80. Let those schools get the experiences other larger schools get.
If one of the missions of State Sponsored Sports is to promote participation then we support it. We support the exploration of other sports as well but that is a discussion for another day. With so many students struggling in the classroom and discipline issues in schools, why not give them options to participate in a structured atmosphere? For those who dispute the discipline issues in school- never believe any stat given to you by the WVDE, but that is also another discussion for another day. Simply put, this is a good idea to explore.
Coalfields and Co. will continue to monitor this development and explore the pros and cons of the issue. For those who will follow this, it should be noted that the issue has wheels and has a large amount of support across the state. With this in mind, don’t be surprised to see 8-man football come to your area.