The Illinois High School Association (IHSA), which presides over high school athletics, recently approved several proposals that went to a vote this month, including one that would shake up football scheduling and the postseason format.
The proposal would implement a scheduling system that places teams into classes, based on enrollment, before the season; schools in each class would be placed into eight geographic groups and be required to play against each team in their group. The remainder of their schedules could be filled out at the teams’ discretion.
The top four teams in each group would qualify for the playoffs based on their records against fellow group teams.
The proposal would take effect in the 2021 season. Voting was opened to all IHSA schools on Dec. 3 and ran until Dec. 17. Schools could vote yes, no or no opinion, and the majority would decide what happens; results were scheduled to be posted on Dec. 18, after press time.
The proposal came as a response to the wave of schools changing conferences in recent years; some schools were left behind, and they’ve encountered difficulties making schedules without a bevy of guaranteed conference games. Many teams look out of state for opponents or play a team twice.
Under the proposal, teams would have several guaranteed “group” games.
Something needs to be done about conference upheaval, but the proposal has too many flaws.
The most notable one is that games against “non-group” teams are rendered meaningless in regard to qualifying for the postseason playoffs. Player safety is a major point of emphasis, and the IHSA would be asking players to risk getting injured in a game that doesn’t matter in their quest for a state championship.
Other flaws include requiring teams to drive potentially hundreds of miles to play other teams in their group or some groups that feature too many strong teams.
Both those situations currently arise with conference alignments, but at least in those scenarios, schools have a choice as to what conference they belong to and what their schedule will be. If they don’t like it, they can leave the conference.
The proposal would lock schools into a schedule.
The IHSA and its member schools need to do something about schools that are hurt by the conference re-shuffling. However, this proposal isn’t the answer.