IHSAA releases new football districts, slight scheduling tweak
By BRANDON HURLEY
In with the new and out with the old – well, sort of.
A slew of changes sprouted from the Iowa High School Athletic Association’s latest round of meetings last month, and with it, came new football districts complete with a one-year scheduling cycle.
The biggest change of note is the new district groupings are only the aforementioned one year cycle. Previously, district alignments had been assigned for two years, then re-evaluated after that. With the announcement, Greene County stayed in Class 2A after spending the previous two falls in the same classification. The Rams are coming off back-to-back seasons in which they won eight regular season games, including a record-setting fall last year. Greene County won a playoff game for the first time in GCHS history, a commanding win over Des Moines Christian, setting all kinds of school records along the way.
Fifty-four schools in Class 2A are split into nine, six-team districts. The state decided to stick with 16 playoff qualifiers despite rumors and considerations of perhaps vaulting back up to a 32-team field, which was in used from 2008 to 2015.
Greene County will once again be placed in Class 2A, District 9, where the program has spent the two previous years. They will be joined by 2019 district members Atlantic, Red Oak and Shenandoah while Clarinda and Des Moines Christian are new to the district. Clarinda makes the jump to Class 2A after spending the last two years in Class 1A. Clarinda was 5-4 a season ago while Des Moines Christian tallied a 8-2 overall record, including a 8-1 regular season tally back in 2019. Atlantic was 4-5 a year ago while Shenandoah was 2-7. Red Oak failed to win a game in nine tries last year and is in the midst of a 12-game losing streak.
Nine teams will automatically qualify for the playoffs, similar the two previous years, which means each district champion will earn berths to the playoffs. Seven at-large teams will once again be determined by the Ratings Percentage Index or RPI. Greene County will also again play five district games next year preceded by four non-district games.
The IHSAA chose to go with a one year district schedule as opposed to the two-year cycle for a handful of recent years. The local Iowa organization said the shortened cycle is to allow them a chance to compile more statistical research which could effect future playoff qualifications. The IHSAA board of control said they will reconvene following the 2020 season and decide on any possible re-districting or new playoff formats.
“We have solicited lots of feedback from our membership and a one-year cycle gives us more time to evaluate that feedback and work on making classifications better,” IHSAA board of control chairman Rod Earleywine said in a release. “It’s never going to be perfect, but we acknowledge that there are problems with our current classification system and we need to see what kind of improvements we can make.”
The IHSAA football advisory committee mulled reverting back to the 32-team playoff model in two previous meetings this winter, which would have also included a shortened regular season down to eight games in Classes 3A through eight-man. But ultimately, they chose to stand pat with the 16-team playoff field they’ve used over the last four seasons, citing a lack of necessary recovery time during the playoffs. The decision alludes to a possible eight game regular season if the state goes to a 32-team playoff system again. The state has used a Friday-Friday-Friday model for the past several postseasons, allowing playoff games to take place only on Fridays, which in turn gives high school athletes a full week of rest and recovery.
The advisory committee considered possible connections between free and reduced lunch accounts – i.e. low income school districts – and how it correlated to on-field success throughout the state. They also mulled different classification systems in use in other states across the country and how they would be feasible within Iowa high school athletics. Eventually, they felt it would be best to continue with the 16-team playoff system and the nine district groupings for at least another year.
The football board of control had asked both the IHSAA and the Iowa Girls’ High School Athletic Union to study enrollment numbers and facts at all of the state’s school districts. These new classifications and districts were a direct result of those studies, but are not necessarily the end all, be all. The board will once again meet next month to discuss classification findings further.
The Greene County football team will undergo a significant rebuild next fall as they must replace a handful of the most successful footballers in GCHS history. The Rams said goodbye to five All State honorees last season including Iowa State University offensive lineman commit Tyler Miller, future UNI Panther track and field signee Carter Morton, Greene County’s all-time leading rusher Colby Kafer, and the school’s all-time leading passer in Brent Riley as well as record-setting kicker Cael Fisher. Greene County also lost Nick Breon and Joe Patterson to graduation, two athletes who will play football at the next level. Breon signed with Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls to play football and baseball while Patterson is headed to Waldorf University in Forest City.
The Rams have won eight of their last 10 district games and 17 of their last 19 contests overall. They have not lost a non-district game since 2016, a string of eight straight non-district wins.
The 2020 Iowa High School football playoffs will begin on Oct. 30 while the first week of the regular season is set for Aug. 28. Complete team schedules should be released some time in March, as per the IHSAA.