IHSAA makes football playoff changes for 2014
By Ashlee De Wit
The Iowa High School Athletic Association Board of Control decided yesterday that it will not alter the length of the regular season or the playoff schedule, but did make some changes to the playoff system.
The board rejected the recommendation from the Iowa Football Coaches’ Association and the Football Advisory Committee to shorten the regular season to eight games, and so the regular season will remain in its traditional nine-game format.
There will be a different process for postseason pairings, however.
Sister districts and brackets have been eliminated, and pairings will again be determined after each round.
District champions will still be paired with No. 4 seeds, and runners-up with No. 3 seeds, but the pairings could be made between any two districts, or even within a district.
A 125-mile traveling restriction has been implemented for the first three rounds, but it is guaranteed that district champions won’t play each other until the quarterfinal round.
“We’ll look at the matchups and try to be consistent,” said IHSAA assistant director Todd Tharp, who will ultimately be responsible for the playoff pairings.
“(The new system) makes it tough to know who to prepare for,” Mt. Pleasant Football Coach Shawn Striegel said. “But will probably be a better true picture of the actual pairings, because with sister districts, you can end up with perennial powerhouses playing each other in (early) rounds. Though with distance restrictions, you might still have that problem.”
WACO football coach, Chad Edeker, also has concerns about the distance restriction’s effect.
“I don’t like (that we can play within our own district),” he said. “Down here in the corner, we’re so far from everybody else that we probably will end up playing in our district.”
And like Striegel, he notes that the new system will make it tougher for teams to prepare for future opponents.
“I liked the old way, where we could set up film exchange so easily,” Edeker said.
However, he also he said that most schools use Hudl, an online video service that lets coaches exchange film quickly. The service just gets a little expensive for Class A schools, and only five of the eight schools in the current Class A District 5 use it.
Still, the changes aren’t having a huge impact on the WACO coach, who has worked with a similar system in the past.
“I don’t get too worked up about it,” Edeker said. “We’ve only had a bracket for the last four or six years.”
The state has also traditionally had a nine-game football season, and that will remain the same after the board’s decision to reject the IFCA’s recommendation.
The IFCA was concerned about injury risk from playing the final regular season game so close to the playoffs, as teams could be playing up to four times in just 15 days, and wanted the regular season shortened to eight games.
The Board of Control felt that more research was needed into injury risk associated with shortened rest time, and so the regular season and playoff schedule will remain the same — but the issue could be revisited in two years.
“Our membership spoke to us and had concerns about the loss of the ninth game,” Tharp said. “There were concerns about tradition and about the financial aspect that the schools would have felt, and the role that football revenue has on some non-revenue sports.
“At the same time, we are concerned about the safety of our students,” he added, “and schools that make the postseason are concerned about safety, but there has to be more research on the broader aspects of the overall health of the athletes.”
There was more than an hour of discussion on the topic before the board voted to reject the recommendation.
“The membership spoke, and the board of control did an awesome job listening to its constituents,” Tharp said.
Striegel agrees with the board’s choice.
“I think they made the right decision to go though and make sure there was some data, so they could make a quality decision,” he said.