Will anti-district forces prevail in IHSA football plan?

  • Can the "Anything But Districts" forces get their way when it comes to football scheduling and the playoffs?

      Can the "Anything But Districts" forces get their way when it comes to football scheduling and the playoffs? John Starks | Staff Photographer

Updated 10/16/2019 2:44 PM

Perception is everything, even with well-crafted and heavily backed bylaw proposals.

This week's Eyes on Five looks at the effort to rid the future of districts and introduce another new era of IHSA football.


Half full:

To no one's surprise, the "Anything But Districts" faction has spoken.

A year after districts were approved through a 324-307 vote by the IHSA member schools -- and two years before districts are scheduled to take effect -- the counterpoint revealed itself last week.

Submitted by a group of about two dozen schools, the bylaw amendment proposal's main thrust is playoff expansion. Each of the eight classes would grow from 32 to 48 teams and allow three-win teams to qualify.

It's similar to a proposal submitted a few years ago. Even those attached to the proposal know it's not ideal but, again, there's a significant camp that wants anything but districts.

The question is what's most palatable to the IHSA and what would survive a potential statewide vote?

Proponents of the new proposal hope expansion is the answer.

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Half empty:

The backers of districts -- and as last year's vote showed, they exist beyond the borders of the DuPage Valley Conference -- are losing hope.

As Naperville North athletic director Bob Quinn told me last week, he doesn't think districts will see the light of day.

To remind everyone about districts, conferences will disappear for football and be replaced by the IHSA with groupings of eight or nine schools based on enrollment and geography.

The IHSA won't announce district groupings for the 2021 season until late 2020. But when "mock" districts started appearing online over the last few months, schools became jittery.


The main backers of districts still want to give it a chance. So do many other schools thinking it's worth a try.

But it might not be enough to fight the rising tide.


Many view districts as a selfish endeavor, something to satisfy a small number of conferences dealing with upheaval and a minority of schools struggling with scheduling.

But how is this new proposal any different in terms of preserving self interest?

York supports the new proposal because the Dukes understandably want to keep the West Suburban Conference intact. The league's been stable since 1986 and districts would send the 14 members scattered to different districts in different classes.

South suburban schools attached to the new proposal fear being in a district with southern Illinois schools. They're understandably concerned about several massive commutes a season.

Every state region, every conference, every school has its own interests in mind. That makes it impossible to find anything everyone supports.

Just as the DuPage Valley Conference sought the best solution for its issues, so too is the rest of the state.

What's next:

The legislative process goes through its motions, just like it did last year for districts.

The deadline for submitting bylaw amendment proposals passed on Tuesday, so now we wait for the townhall meetings in November. The IHSA then decides which proposals to put on the December ballot sent to the member schools.

Only a year after districts were voted in, the IHSA may decide districts deserve a chance. It might decide the state can't keep implementing massive changes to football year after year.

The IHSA might say ... look, this is what was voted in. This is what we're rolling with.

On the other hand, does the IHSA want to be in the scheduling business? If you think people get angry about basketball sectional pairings, just wait for uproar stemming from the districts.

Implementing this new proposal not only gets the IHSA out of potential scheduling debacles, it conforms with a theme the organization's shown to support -- playoff expansion in football.

It'll be interesting to see which way it goes, but I think the new proposal makes it to the ballot.

Stat time:

Last week Naperville Central benefitted from three turnovers in its DuPage Valley Conference victory over Waubonsie Valley.

In their previous six games combined, the Redhawks managed only one takeaway.

Twitter: @kevin_schmit

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