Teams coming to grips with new rules limiting playing time
Much of the off-season buzz focused on the arrival of districts in 2021, an upheaval in the playoff system that'll eliminate conferences for football and replace them with groupings of eight or nine schools based on geography and enrollment.
It's a massive change, but one that remains two years away. For now we need to talk about something else.
If you've never heard of the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, you're about to get an earful.
SMAC, as it's commonly known, developed a new set of participation guidelines for football that restricts playing time during a given week. Combined with tweaks from the IHSA Board of Directors, the rules will drastically impact how teams prepare for games this season.
The main change is that players are no longer allowed to compete in two games on the same day or in two games on consecutive days. Participation in one play equals a game, meaning a player who enters for one play in Friday's varsity game can't play in Saturday's junior varsity game.
Not only that, but players can't have any contact in practice the day after games. Compiling full program schedules hasn't been easy.
"It's a dilemma," said Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet. "The system we had was fine. It's extremely frustrating having to work with this now."
Most conferences are shifting JV games from Saturday to Monday. That means backup varsity players can play in varsity and JV games, but they won't be able to have contact in Tuesday's practice.
It basically pushes preparation a day ahead, meaning Thursday becomes a heavy-lifting day instead of a walk-through.
Coaches are adjusting on the fly.
"I don't think we have all the answers right now," said Waubonsie Valley coach Paul Murphy. "Whatever we have to do, we need to find a way keep all our players competing on the field. It'll be tough to do with these new rules."