IHSA board votes to implement more playoff changes for private schools

News-DemocratFebruary 20, 2014 

The Illinois High School Association board on Wednesday approved and implemented a new "success factor" points system for the playoffs that changes its enrollment multiplier system involving private, non-boundaried schools.

The changes begin in the 2014-15 school year and include playoff results from the previous four years.

In playoff-bracketed sports other than football, schools would move up a class if they twice participate in the final four of their particular sport or activity over a four-year span.

In non-playoff bracketed sports, schools would move up a class if they win two trophies at the state finals over four years.

"My biggest concern is it's still a penalty for success," Mater Dei Principal Dennis Litteken said. "I applaud the group, I know how hard it is being on committees like that. I do think they're making some good efforts."

Under the new format in sports outside of football, private schools get one point for a regional title and two points for a sectional title. Winning regional and sectional titles in the same year will earn only two points.

Private schools earning four or more points in a four-year span or qualifying for the state finals during that four-year span will be ineligible for a multiplier waiver.

The current enrollment multiplier is 1.65.

"This recommendation was brought forward with unanimous support from the committee," IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman said in a statement. "Frankly, I'm not sure the board would have even considered it if that were not the case. For such a diverse group to agree on this proposal was a powerful statement to our board and we appreciate their efforts."

Changes were recommended by a 15-member committee that included representatives from 10 public schools and five private schools.

The committee included Althoff High School football coach Ken Turner and Triad High Athletic Director Jeff Faulkenberg.

"I thought there were a lot of calm people and cool heads talking at this meeting and the parochial schools were well represented," Faulkenberg said. "It was discussed that we have the largest enrollment (in Illinois) of anybody that still has everybody together for the playoffs. Every other state that's bigger than us has a public championship and a private championship."

As a result, it could mean that Mater Dei -- which won Class 3A state volleyball championships in 2010 and 2011 -- could be moved from 3A to 4A.

Gibault won the boys state soccer championship last fall, but wouldn't be affected immediately since that was its only final four trip in recent years. That wouldn't have been the case in the recent past, as Gibault won three state titles and added a second and third-place finish from 2005 to 2009.

In football, winning a first-round state playoff game determines waiver eligibility. However, other changes have been implemented that may prove controversial.

Under new guidelines for private schools, schools would be forced to move up a class in the playoffs if they participated in two state championship games over a four-year span.

* Beginning in 2015, schools would be moved up two classes if, over a four-year period, they participated in three championship games.

*Beginning in 2016, schools would be moved up three classes if, over a four-year period, the school participated in four championship games.

* Schools that move up more than one class due to the implementation of the above criteria will also have the opportunity to move down one class per year --depending on their playoff performance -- until reaching their appropriate enrollment classification.

Althoff drew criticism two years ago when the Crusaders were able to use their enrollment multiplier waiver because of a lack of football playoff wins. Once they dropped to from Class 4A to 2A for the playoffs, they reached the state title game before losing to (Aledo) Mercer County.

"I feel like we were one of the big issues because we were able to go down that one year because we hadn't won a playoff game," said Turner, whose school has roughly 400 students. "The argument was the fact that the unsuccessful teams in football had the opportunity to move down, so a lot of the committee people argued that why shouldn't the successful teams move up?"

The committee discussed private school football dominance by schools like (Lombard) Montini (four straight state titles from 2009 to 2012, second place in 2013), (Chicago) Mount Carmel (back-to-back state titles and 12 overall), Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin (four state titles since 2005), (Sterling) Newman (three state titles since 2004) and others.

Litteken pointed to successful public schools like Rochester, which has won four straight state football championships, and Wheaton Warrenville South (three state titles and two runner-up finishes from 2006 to 2011).

Under the new playoff guidelines, private schools are the only ones being affected by their playoff success.

"Rochester's a good example," Litteken said. "They've won four state championships, so why wouldn't that success affect somebody like that?

"For those (public) schools that have had a lot of success year-in and year-out, they're still not being affected. Then it's an assumption if a private school has that kind of success, they must be doing something different or have an advantage.

"They don't treat the members equally."

Hickman disagrees.

"The public-private debate is a hot issue around the country, but I think a proactive approach in Illinois has helped us avoid many of the issues engulfing other states," Hickman said. "Clearly there was some give and take in this process between by the committee. The multiplier waiver period was shortened, while those non-boundaried schools who have experienced success beyond the norm will play up a classification."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders

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