The Iowa High School Athletic Association’s Board of Control on Wednesday voted unanimously against reducing the prep football regular season from nine to eight games.
The Iowa Football Coaches Association has expressed safety concerns due to the current playoff structure, where quarterfinal teams are forced to play four games in 15 days. The IFCA asked the IHSAA to consider taking a game from the regular season.
The Board of Control decided more data was needed before approving the proposal. The layout of the playoffs regarding game dates will remain the same for the 2014 and ’15 seasons. The issue will continue to be explored, said Rollie Wiebers, superintendent at Charter Oak-Ute and a member of the Board of Control.
“There certainly is a quick turnaround that puts stress on kids and programs, as far as having their playoff games in a short period of time,” he said. “There just isn’t enough data that says that there’s this many more injuries that have occurred, to make this kind of decision.
“That’s something that the association and the administrative staff will look at. Without that information, we just felt that it was too big of a move to make at this time.”
Many coaches and administrators had expressed concerns that eliminating a home game every other year would do extensive damage to their activities budgets.
“Had this recommendation been passed today, I’m sure there would’ve been many disappointed member schools,” Shenandoah Activities Director Bob Sweeney said. “As an A.D. of a member school, I thank the board members for their decision today. I’m sure that they will continue to look at ways of enhancing both the regular-season schedule and playoff system for the 2016 and 2017 seasons.”
Some have asked the IHSAA to consider starting the season earlier or ending later. There were 28 games last year in Week Zero, the Friday before most teams begin regular-season play. Wiebers said starting all teams in Week Zero wasn’t seriously considered because it still doesn’t provide each school nine regular-season games. He added that there are still too many obstacles preventing the championship round from extending into Thanksgiving weekend.
The other big news out of the IHSAA offices in Boone on Wednesday also affected the football playoffs. The Board of Control voted to eliminate “sister districts” for the purpose of organizing a complete 32-team bracket in each class prior to the playoffs.
The IHSAA instead will release the playoff pairings prior to each round. IHSAA Executive Director Rick Wulkow told The World-Herald there is one primary reason for the change.
“Eliminating as much travel as we possibly can,” he said.
Wulkow said the top four teams in each district will continue to be seeded 1 through 4. In the majority of games, the No. 1 seed will continue to host a 4 in the first round, and the No. 2 will host a 3. But the IHSAA will have the authority to tweak those matchups where they deem appropriate.
“That doesn’t mean we won’t have a 1 versus a 3 and a 2 versus a 4 if it makes total geographic sense,” he said. “But we’ll get the 1s and 2s away from each other until they would have met under the previous system.”
Wulkow said he believes there were more than 20 first-round playoff games last year where teams traveled more than 150 miles one way on a school night. He said there will be an attempt to reduce that number, while still maintaining the integrity of the playoff system.
“We’re still going to honor the philosophy that we’ve developed with seeding the best that we possibly can,” he said.
Wulkow said in Class 4-A, where there will be 46 teams, the western teams will still compete in one side of the draw and the eastern teams in the other side, even though there won’t be an actual bracket.
In the other classes, semifinals previously have matched teams from the western half of the state and teams from the east. Wulkow said a decision on whether to keep that arrangement hasn’t been made.
“That’s still on the table,” he said. “I’ve got some thoughts on that.”
The IHSAA will announce district assignments for all football classes on Thursday morning.