(4-30-18) In a recent meeting of the IHSA Football Advisory Committee a proposal came out to recommend that football move to District play in the future, with an added benefit of stabilizing athletic conference membership.

Sycamore AD Chauncey Carrick has been leading the charge to get some changes in the IHSA football playoff system. One of the main issues facing the Trojans is the lack of stability facing area high school athletic conferences. Sycamore has seen plenty of changes over the years and recently announced they would be joining the new look Interstate 8 after the break-up of the Northern Illinois Big 12.

Sycamore AD Chauncey Carrick

“There is no doubt in my mind that the Northern Illinois Big 12 broke up due to football related issues. If football was out of the equation conference realignment would have one last shift. I believe that many conferences that have been dissolved may come back together. Geography will become the import factor for all other sports. I applaud the IHSA Football Advisory Committee for seeing that this problem is not going away. I think the survey they sent out was awesome. It showed that schools are happy with the number of teams in the playoffs. The survey also showed that “Race to 5 Wins” would become the “Race to 3 Wins.” Until schools are able to play their way into the playoffs on their own merit and not on the backs of smaller schools, conference alignment will be an issue. I would love for the IHSA Board of Directors to pass this at their next meeting, but I also understand that the political wheels do not turn that fast. There is a huge need for this in Illinois, I have felt for many years this is the direction that will make the IHSA a stronger organization.

Carrick led the charge in 2014-15 that led to a a very detailed proposal (see below) that was voted on by the IHSA membership and was defeated by a 395-212 margin. But that vote was the gateway to what see being proposed (story link below includes proposal) by the IHSA Football Advisory Committee.

Part of Carrick’s proposal included dividing schools into a 8-team district as an example of who each school might be grouped with:

School-Current Conference

  • Belvidere – NIC 10
  • Burlington Central – Kishwaukee River Conference (will join Fox Valley Conference)
  • Freeport – NIC 10
  • Hampshire – Fox Valley Conference
  • Sycamore – NIB 12 (joining Interstate 8)
  • Woodstock – Kishwaukee River Conference
  • Woodstock North – Kishwaukee River Conference
  • Woodstock Marian – East Suburban Catholic

The proposal being considered by the Advisory Committee mirrors many of the items in Carrick’s proposal.

Harlem is a part of the NIC 10 and is considering expansion by adding two schools left behind in the NIB 12 break-up (DeKalb and Kaneland).  The NIC 10 has only had one membership change in the recent past and that happened when the Belvidere school district added a new high school (North).

Jim Morrow, Head Football Coach, Harlem

It is my understanding that this model would resemble current structures employed in Wisconsin and Oklahoma.  They have very healthy regular season and playoff structures.  Enrollments and competitive balances are constantly changing, however a conference-based system is mired in tradition, rivalries, and geography that often lose relevance over time.  I would be open to changes in Illinois.

Matt Weckler and his DeKalb football team could be a victim of the current conference jumping taking place in Illinois, if the Barbs are not admitted to the NIC 10 they will be facing an independent football schedule. Independents in football have to really scramble to find opponents during the regular season, most area schools are competing in conference play most of the season.

Matt Weckler, Head Football Coach, DeKalb
This proposal is something that has to be looked at and seriously considered. The situation that DeKalb High School, in not having a conference for the 2019 not able to find local non-conference games, is a direct result of football – school size discrepancies and the 5 win baseline. Non-conference games are very hard to come by if you have a successful program pushing teams to find games out of the state to fill their schedule. I love the thought of being able to play good competition without playoff implications. This would not only keep teams from having to travel but also promote great football in our state.

Josh Jostes was a part of the Advisory Committee and shares his thoughts on why a change is needed.

Josh Jostes, Head Football Coach, Maroa-Forsyth Trojans (member of committee)

My thoughts are: this is the most fair plan for all schools and will end conference realignments.  I feel the new plan is necessary with the constant changing and travel schedules that are becoming the norm for our schools, something has to be done.   

How will this issue be handled by the IHSA in the future? Many hope the Board of Directors will approve it and bypass an association wide vote and at least give it a try to help with the conference alignment problem.

Matt Troha, Assistant Executive Director, Illinois High School Association

The IHSA football playoffs are governed by IHSA Board Policy, meaning they can be changed by the IHSA Board of Directors via a simple majority vote at any time. Over the past few years, given that there was a great deal of discussion about football scheduling and playoff format changes, but no decisive new model, we recommended that those interested in change propose their formats via the by-law process. This assured that the proposals were discussed membership-wide at IHSA Town Hall meetings and would only pass if there was unanimous support from the member schools. The current plan of the IHSA Football Advisory Committee is to craft a district scheduling proposal as a by-law proposal for the 2018-19 school year.

Unless the IHSA steps in and controls athletic conference membership the issue of District football will constantly be pointed to as the only way to solve the problem.

Roadblocks to the proposal will include tradition and the attitude of ‘we’ve never done it that way in the past’. There would be no NIC 10, Big Northern, Fox Valley Conference, etc named in the future.

Some positive points include, AD’s would no longer have to worry about scheduling football in the future and most likely the big beneficiary would be the athletic conferences for all the other sports in finding future stability.

2014-15 – Proposal No. 10
Add By-law 3.173 – Football Regular Season and Playoff Proposal
Submitted by Tim Carlson, Principal, Sycamore (H.S.)

The vote failed by a 395-212 margin

By-law 3.173 to Read:

I. CREATING A NEW BY-LAW TO GOVERN IHSA FOOTBALL
a. This proposal is creating a system for how the IHSA runs football.
i. Establishes a nine (9) game regular season schedule for all teams eligible for the IHSA Playoffs.
ii. Establishes how the regular season determines the IHSA Football Playoffs.
iii. Establishes how the playoffs are run.
iv. This proposal would allow the IHSA Board of Directors to decide if we start region football in 2015 or 2016.

II. ESTABLISHING EIGHT (8) CLASSIFICATIONS – (1A, 2A, 3A, 4A, 5A, 6A, 7A, 8A)
a. Enrollment
i. Each school will average the official enrollments for the two years prior to the seasons in which the seasons will be played.
ii. Here is an example:
1. If approved for the 2015 and 2016 schedules will be established by the enrollment from the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 schedules.
2. Schools with a single gender will apply all by-laws before the average is determined.
iii. When the average enrollment is determined, the multiplier will then be enforced to the schools that have met the criteria during the seasons in which the enrollment were used.
iv. A list will be formed from the greatest number to the smallest number.
b. Placing Schools in a Classification
i. The IHSA will divide the state into eight (8) classifications.
ii. The number of regions in each classification will be eight (8).
iii. The number of schools in each classification will be set by the IHSA.
1. Each region will consist of seven (7), eight (8), or nine (9) schools.
c. Moving Up in Classification
i. Any school interested in playing up a classification needs to notify the IHSA by Monday of Week 28.

III. ESTABLISHING REGIONS WITHIN THE EIGHT (8) CLASSIFICATIONS
a. The IHSA will set the regions in all classifications.
b. The regions will be set by geography.
c. These regions will be announced by the Monday of Week 31.
d. Each region will be labeled by their classification and a number.
i. Example – 8A-Region 1

IV. ESTABLISHING SCHEDULES FOR A TWO (2) YEAR CYCLE
a. Region Schedules
i. The IHSA will develop the schedules.
ii. Teams will be placed in alphabetical order in each region.
iii. Numbers will then be drawn for 7 team, 8 team, and 9 team regions.
iv. The first number drawn will be given to the team at the top of the list, subsequent numbers will be placed in the order they are drawn.
1. All 7 number will be drawn for the 7 team regions.
2. All 8 numbers will be drawn for the 8 team regions.
3. All 9 numbers will be drawn for the 9 team regions.
v. The regular season rotation is listed in Appendix A.
vi. Home teams will be established so that the number of home games during the two year cycle is even.
1. 7 team regions – 3 home games and 3 away games each season.
a. Plus 3 non region games, 2 home games one season, 1 the other season
2. 8 team regions – 4 home games one season, 3 home games the other season.
a. Plus 2 non region games, 1 home and one away each season
3. 9 team regions – 4 home games and 4 away games each season.
a. Plus 1 non region home game one of the two season.
vii. The numbers will be drawn by the Monday of Week 31 of the year prior to the resetting of the regions.
b. Non-Region Games
i. Nine (9) team regions will play one non-region game.
1. These non-region games will be with a neighboring region.
2. These regions will have a bye week in their region.
3. The week of their bye in their region, they will play the team with the same number.
4. These games will be announce by the Monday of Week 35.
ii. Eight (8) team regions will play two non-region games.
1. These non-region games will be weeks one and two of the season.
2. Each team will submit six (6) teams they would like to play.
a. They will list them in the order of priority
3. If two teams list each other as first choice, they will be guaranteed to play in either week one or week two.
4. All other games will be played based on geography and the priority list.
5. The IHSA will set all non-region games.
6. These non-region games will be announced by the Monday of Week 35.
iii. Seven (7) team regions will play three non-region games.
1. One non-region games will be with a neighboring region.
a. These regions will have a bye week in their region.
b. The week of their bye in their region, they will play the team with the same number.
2. Two non-region games will be weeks one and two of the season.
a. Each team will submit six (6) teams they would like to play.
b. They will list them in the order of priority

c. If two teams list each other as first choice, they will be guaranteed to play in either week one or week two.
d. All other games will be played based on geography and the priority list.
e. The IHSA will set all non-region games.
f. These non-region games will be announced by the Monday of Week 35.
c. Levels of Play
i. Schools will be playing all levels that schools offer.
1. The preference would be to play one play one game before the varsity game.
2. Other levels could be played on Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Monday.
3. If a school has a level and their opponent does not, they are free to seek another school to play for that specific week.
d. Game Times, Dates, Locations
i. Schools must mutually agree upon dates and times by the Monday of Week 1 of the IHSA calendar.
ii. Schools need to be flexible for conditions that may necessitate dates of specific games. (Examples – Religious Holidays, Homecoming Traditions, Community Events, Travel, Stadium Availability)
e. When the schedule is set for year one, year two will set be set to play at the opposite sites.

V. ESTABLISHING PLAYOFF TEAMS
a. The top 4 schools in each region will make the IHSA Football Playoffs.
i. Each playoff spot will be determined in each region in the following order:
1. First Place
2. Second Place
3. Third Place
4. Fourth Place
b. If two schools are tied for a place, the following criteria will break the tie:
i. Head to Head Competition
c. If three or more schools are tied for a place, the following criteria will break the tie:
i. Head to Head Competition.
ii. Total Point Differential for all games within the Region.
iii. Total Point Differential for all games won within the Region.
iv. Total Point Differential for all games lost within the Region.
v. Schools will be eliminated from the tiebreakers, when one position is determined, we will then return to the appropriate criteria for any remaining schools.
d. Point Differential
i. A maximum of +/- 12 can be earned for point differential in a single game.
1. If Team A defeats Team B, 28-14, Team A has a +12 point differential, while Team B has a -12 point differential.
2. This number is set so that there is no need to ‘run up’ the score during a game.
ii. If a game goes to overtime, the winning team will have a +1 point differential, with the losing team having a -1 point differential, regardless of the final score.

VI. BRACKETING THE IHSA PLAYOFFS
a. For all classifications, four regions will be placed in the North and four regions will be placed in the South.
b. The four champions of each region will be seeded.
i. Seeding will be done by the total number of playoff points earned by a team.
1. Playoff points will be the wins of all your regular season opponents.
ii. Once the champions are placed on the bracket, the 2nd place teams will be placed on the opposite side of the bracket from their champion.
iii. The 3rd place teams will be placed next, the same side as the 2nd place team, but the other quarter bracket.
iv. The 4th place teams will be placed next, the same side as the champion, but the other quarter bracket.

VII. HOME SITES FOR THE IHSA PLAYOFFS
a. In the first round, all games will be hosted by the championship and 2nd place schools.
b. In the second round through the semi-finals, the host will be the school that has hosted the least number of games.
i. If that number if games hosted is equal, the school with the most playoff points will be the host.
ii. If the total playoff points are equal, the school with the best regular season point differential will host.
iii. If the point differential is equal, the IHSA will conduct a coin flip.

VIII. OFFICIATING
a. For the regular season the home team will be responsible for the payment of officials
i. Each region may hire an assignor to contract officials for the all regular season games.
1. Many conferences currently use assignors, this could be done for each region as well.
b. For the playoffs the IHSA will assign all games.

Rationale:

Conference Stability

  • In the last five years, 20 conferences have changed alignment do to departures or additions
  • In the last five years, 4 new conferences have been formed.
  • Eliminates teams playing outside the state of Illinois
  • 38 schools are playing out of state schools
  • 49 games versus out of state schools
  • Games played in 11 different states
    Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin
  • Eliminate creative scheduling to get the magic 5th win
  • Schedules are set by the state
  • Place in the region determines your playoff status
  • Give some type of system that the public understand
  • The public can see the standings to see where their team is in the standing
    Similar to how they follow their favorite pro teams
    Can keep a running total of the tiebreakers with the records
  • Creates additional interest in certain areas.
  • Teams earning playoff bids versus like schools
  • Every year there are teams that earn playoff berths on the backs of schools that are significantly smaller.
  • The same can be said in reverse, some schools do not make the playoffs due to playing schools significantly larger.
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