There’s a new epidemic within high school football, classification shrinkage. When schools get demoted due to competition and class sizes in order to get more interesting matchups within the regular season. Teams that wouldn’t have played each other in the past or never have played each other ever, might get their chance with the upcoming seasons.
The Iowa High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) is hoping that more students would participate in their respected football programs due to more balanced competition or schools will try to load up their schedule showing off their teams dominance. This predicament however leads to an issue within the scheduling of no district games, the IHSAA thinks due to the shrinkage in the schedule, good teams will play each other on a weekly bases, so they implemented a new playoff format that attempts to get the best overall team into the playoffs by strength in schedule (strength in schedule pertains to the more difficult teams a school plays, the better rank/seed that school could get in the playoffs).
The playoffs will now be under an RPI system (Ratings Percentage Index) which consists of 3 standards, overall win-loss percentage, team’s opponents’ win-loss percentage, and team’s opponents’ opponents win-loss.
Due to strength in schedule (teams opponents) being a factor for teams getting into the playoffs would teams like to go up against difficult teams to see how good their program is or go up against mediocre teams that don’t put up a fight and improve the football team due to lack of competition. With teams being brought down, more difficult teams will face each other and what were once possible playoff games, can now occur during the regular season. There’s also a possibility of there being out of state teams coming in to see how they match up to teams within Iowa.
When talking to Prairie Hawks Head coach and Offensive coordinator Mark Bliss about whether or not he approved of the new playoff format, he said “Iowa High School Athletic Association was initially in conjunction with the Iowa Football Coach Association to come up with an idea of how they want to reformat things for the next two year cycle, but the IHSAA went and formatted everything their own way. The Coaches Association is a little disgruntled because it completely changes things of how the playoffs work.”
“Since they reduced the teams down to 42, it leaves 6 teams within seven districts, so with the new RPI system, it creates a lot of issues for team with who they want to play and who they don’t want to play. It creates a lot of issues for teams like us where certain teams won’t play us, due to our different offense, we’re more difficult to prepare for.“ (Coach Bliss, referring to the single wing which is rarely used in todays game)
“We got to make sure that the non district games aren’t gonna beat us up so bad that when we go into our district play that we’re hobbling. It’s a delicate thing, you gotta be articulate in your scheduling and that’s what we’re trying to do, but at the end of the day the states gonna dictate your schedule anyway.”
What coach Bliss is referring to is that in Iowa, unlike other states, the IHSAA determines the final schedule. Schools put in a list of suggestions of teams they prefer to play. So teams can prefer to play one team, but get match up against a school where neither of them put the other on their list.
Something not often discussed but is a key part of High School athletics is the concessions. If a team is really good and if facing them could better their RPI, but they’re located far away, do schools want to risk games with a chance for low concessions. Concessions for football help pay for other activities within the district as well as the program itself. Will schools risk competition for less money that benefit the schools other activities?
So with that in mind coaches all across Iowa are looking to put together the best schedule that can get them into the postseason. While other more confident coaches are putting a difficult schedule together for the regular season to get in by strength in schedule and to knock off the teams that they see have a chance of winning it all by getting them out early. Others are trying to get easier non district opponents to get into districts with little to no injuries.
The season schedules will be released sometime by the end of February on an undisclosed date.