New football playoff proposal goes to IHSA
The inevitable is happening.
To the surprise of no one, at least one bylaw amendment proposal for football will be submitted to the IHSA in an effort to eliminate the districting system voted in last year by the IHSA member schools.
The proposal, submitted collectively by more than two dozen schools, features playoff expansion from 32 to 48 teams per class and an eight-game regular season. Week 9 is reserved for opening-round playoff games and games between non-qualifiers.
The top 16 seeds in each of the eight classes receive a bye in Week 9. They'd begin the postseason Week 10 against the winners of the opening-round playoff games.
"While understanding the landscape and a need for change in the football scheduling model, we believe expanding the playoffs from 32 teams to 48 per class ... is a much better solution to the issues and concerns about football scheduling -- the drive for five (wins) and conference shuffling -- than the district model," the proposal reads.
"By only needing three wins to qualify for the playoffs (under the new proposal), the pressure on schools, coaches and (athletic directors) to find five wins is removed. The need to change conferences to find five wins is also removed."
The comments about scheduling difficulties and conference shuffling is a direct response to Proposal 23 -- the district proposal -- submitted last year, voted in by the IHSA member schools and scheduled to be enacted in 2021.
"There's a group of athletic directors who aren't happy with districts, and we've met a few times to discuss alternatives," said York athletic director Rob Wagner, one of the administrators signed on to the new proposal. "This proposal creates opportunities for more teams to experience the playoffs and it keeps conferences together. It's not ideal, but it's something different from districts."
Proposal 23 eliminates conferences for football and authorizes the IHSA to create "district" groupings based on enrollment and geography. Schools from the eight playoff classes would be placed into eight districts per class. Each district of eight or nine schools would play a round-robin schedule, with the remaining one or two nondistrict games -- games that wouldn't count toward playoff qualification -- scheduled by individual schools.
Districts were voted in by a margin of 324 to 307 with 69 schools voting "no opinion" on Proposal 23.
The DuPage Valley Conference is a proponent of districts because of the immense scheduling difficulties facing the six-team league. Just to fill this season's schedule, Naperville Central, Naperville North and Waubonsie Valley needed to travel out of state for Week 3.
Naperville North athletic director Bob Quinn remains a proponent of districts but realizes the writing may be on the wall.
"We knew there'd be legislation to try to counter districts," Quinn said. "We are absolutely a proponent of districting, but I don't believe it will see the light of day. I'd love to see districts happen because the rank and file of the IHSA voted it in. Something needs to happen because football is in trouble. If we don't do something as a state to fix the issues we have, we're going to lose football."
Bylaw proposals must be submitted to the IHSA by Oct. 15. There are town hall meetings in November to discuss the proposals before the IHSA decides which proposals to put on the statewide ballot. The member schools then vote on the approved proposals in December.
It's possible that additional bylaw proposals for football will be submitted, leaving the IHSA with a decision to make regarding which proposals -- if any -- to put on the ballot.
"Whether it's districts or this proposal, we need to do something," Quinn said.