Area Coaches Give Mixed Reactions To IHSA Football Playoffs Changes


J. Thomas McNamara

     Mixed is the best way to describe the reactions I received in my requests from coaches of the 13 schools the Decatur Tribune covers and the two athletic directors from Decatur’s Eisenhower and MacArthur high schools regarding the IHSA Football Playoffs changes.
     Central A&M’s Brent Weakly, Mount Zion’s Patrick Etherton, Warrensburg-Latham’s Aaron Fricke and Maroa-Forsyth’s Josh Jostes responded to the request, along with MacArthur Athletic Director Jason Crutcher. Eisenhower’s Athletic Director Steve Thompson did not respond to the request.
Jostes, who serves on the IHSA football advisory board that came up with this proposal, opined, “I am on the advisory board and helped write the proposal. My belief is this ends conference jumping and scheduling nightmares for football. Therefore, conference geographically align again for all other sports after football scheduling is removed.”
     Central A&M’s Brent Weakly broke it down into four points, explaining, “A) I believe we should have nine games; B) For two years people will be in the same classes and districts, for people on the border of classes I can how that is a benefit for them;
     C) Districts can be good for schools that are near a lot schools that are the same size. For us there are not a lot of schools south of us that are 1A, we would be at the mercy of the IHSA to determine how far we would travel. Two hour bus trips one way are not a lot of fun. What really interests me is what we have to do for the lower levels. I would hope that they would allow us to schedule our own. Much like what we are able to do with the letter D proposal; D) It would allow teams to play whomever they would want and to keep rivalry games alive.”
     Mount Zion’s head coach Patrick Etherton wrote, “I believe that the districts have some very positive aspects and some negative aspects. I think there are some questions that need to be answered as well with districts. I am curious what they are doing with private schools. I know that a major concern for a lot of schools is travel distances.
     “I am curious of which direction we will go — either to the southeast area or to the west. We are right on the border of 4A and 5A, which will be interesting to see the schools that we would play. Overall, I think that it is the best solution to help out football in the state of Illinois.”
     Warrensburg-Latham’s first year head coach Aaron Fricke offered, “Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about it. It would depend on who we end up with in our district. I know it would create headaches for our administration in terms of hiring referee crews. Most of our games have referees booked 4 years in advance already. I just see the logistics of it all being very messy early on in the process.”     

     MacArthur’s AD Jason Crutcher offered, “I feel there are a lot of pros and cons to this proposal. I wouldn’t mind seeing the IHSA going to districts, and I think it would benefit MacArthur going to districts. With the projections that I saw from our district, it is pretty good with travel, the schools aren’t that far away. On the other hand, take Springfield High, Sacred Heart Griffin, and Chatham-Glenwood who are in higher classes, they may have to travel farther then they do now. If the districts is a solution from teams jumping conferences, then I am all for it. I am a conference type of guy, I want to see a conference champion every year, with this you won’t. The questions I have our so if we go to districts, do we keep our underclass schedule with our conference or how will that work?
     “If the IHSA does the scheduling, will they assign referees or will the home school be in charge of that. Parents are going to call me asking what about all-conference, how will that be decided? I like the 2 non-district games won’t count against you, because if you want to play better competition then what your district has, you won’t be punished for that. For us, we would like to schedule Rochester or SHG in those games just so we can see better teams.
     If we would had districts this year, the teams we would have played in the projected districts, wouldn’t have helped us play teams like Hillcrest, who has unbelievable speed. We love being in the CS 8 conference and it’s a very competitive conference and we have had success in making the playoffs 3 out of the 5 years that we have been in the conference. So with that being said, I am not against it and if they think this is the solution then that’s fine with me.
     They were commenting on this proposal the Illinois High School Association has sent to all member schools to vote on proposal 23 that directs the IHSA to implement a football scheduling system for regular-season varsity games that would involve the following: (a) a 9-week regular season, (b) playoff classes determined in advance of the season; (c) schools from each class placed into 8 geographic groups by the IHSA Office to play a round-robin schedule; (d) the remaining games on the regular season schedule to be arranged by the individual schools at their discretion; (e) the top 4 teams in each of the 8 groups qualify for the playoffs, based on games played within each group. This proposal would take effect, starting with the 2021 football season.
     I will have more on this developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.

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