In two years the Illinois High School Association will be responsible for placing schools into eight districts in eight classes after the membership approved the measure by a 17-vote margin, 324-307-69.
Proposal 23 directs the IHSA to implement a football scheduling system for regular season varsity-games that will involve the following:
–a nine-week regular season;
–playoff classes determined in advance of the season;
–the IHSA will place schools into eight geographic groups to play a round-robin schedule;
–the remaining games on the regular season schedule will be arranged by the individual schools at their discretion;
–the top four teams in each of the eight groups qualify for the playoffs.
This new policy takes effect starting with the 2021 football season.
Immediately after the IHSA announced the proposal’s passage, I asked Argenta-Oreana’s Steve Kirk, Central A&M’s Brent Weakly, Cerro Gordo/Bement’s Nick Walker, Decatur LSA’s outgoing coach Craig Bundy, Maroa-Forsyth’s Josh Jostes, Meridian’s Micah Sheppard, Mount Zion’s Patrick Etherton, Sangamon Valley’s Michael Lee and Warrensburg-Latham’s Aaron Fricke for their reaction to its passage.
Class 1A semi-finalist and 12-1 Bombers Coach Kirk reminded its immediate effect on his school with this, “It’s not an ideal situation for us because beginning in 2019 we would be in a 10 team league (Little Okaw Valley). I don’t know what it’s going to look like for our program regarding travel and teams within the district.”
Central A&M’s Brent Weakly reacted, “Not much has changed for me, (I’m) not looking forward to longer bus trips. Now we are in a waiting game to see where we are going and who is in our district. Finding out what the plans are for the lower levels, and any other things that pop up, the non-district games and getting officials for those games as many of them have been scheduled out until 2024 so that will be more work for Sean.”
Warrensburg-Latham’s Fricke wrote, “I’m sure similar to almost everyone else, you can easily see the pros and cons of this decision. I love tradition, and it will be sad to see some historic conference matchups disappear. Those rivalries really make the games more exciting.
“However, I do think this is the most equal way to go. I look at a school around here like Clinton, or like Alton Marquette in the area I was in previous–they are in conferences playing 1A and small 2A teams nearly half of their size. So now you are giving a more fair shot to everyone to play against teams near their size.
“The real question is…how much burden will this cause in regards to transportation? For us, it may not be an issue, but some schools will have to travel great distances to see another team in the same classification,” concluded the Cardinals head coach.
Mount Zion’s Patrick Etherton enthused, “I think this is an exciting time for IHSA football. I believe that over the next two years a lot of questions will be answered about districts and the breakdown of each individual district. With two non-district games, it should allow teams to play rival schools that they may not have been able to play in the past. I am excited to see the introduction of districts in IHSA football,” concluded Etherton.
These are the coaches, who responded quickly to my request for comments.
Jostes is a member of the football advisory committee that helped draft this proposal and I’ll have his thoughts in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.