Major changes in Illinois High School Association football are right around the corner.
By a vote of 324-307-69, IHSA member schools have approved a proposal that would implement a district regular season scheduling system beginning in the 2021 season.
One of 11 proposals which were approved by IHSA member schools and results released Tuesday, the new system still will have a nine week regular season schedule with playoff classes in place prior to the start of the season.
Schools from each class will be placed into eight geographic groups by the IHSA office and will play a round-robin schedule. The remaining games on the regular season schedule will then be arranged by each school at their discretion. The top four teams in each of the eight groups qualify for the playoffs, based upon games played within each group.
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The change will take effect beginning in the 2021 season.
“It’s a historic change,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “The narrow gap in voting indicates that that there are pros and cons that impact our diverse football playing membership in a multitude of ways. We hope that it will effectively address conference realignment and scheduling concerns while helping create long-term sustainability and growth of high school football in the state.”
Beginning in 2021, the IHSA will assign football teams to eight or nine team groupings/districts based on classification and geography.
One person not pleased with the final vote total on Tuesday was Mascoutah High School athletic director Scott Battas. A former Indians player who served as the head coach at Mascoutah for several years, Battas said his feelings are echoed by several league coaches and schools.
“I speak for our entire (Mississippi Valley) conference when I say it is a disappointing day as far as high school football goes in our state. The conference has seemingly done things the right way for a ton of years. We have great relationships and our conference championship means something,” Battas said. “We understand why some schools would be in favor of such a move, but it is hard to understand how something could gain so much traction without anyone seeing a model of what this thing will look like. We can all guess but nobody really knows. There were 307 no votes and another 69 with no opinion.
“That is a large of opposition to something with such significant change.”
Previously, schools did not know their postseason classifications until the completion of the regular season. The IHSA will assign each school’s regular-season games against their district opponents Districts will be set for two years, allowing for home and home scheduling within the district.
Schools will then have the freedom to schedule their non-district opponents in their open weeks but those non-district will not count toward playoff qualification. The district assigning process will be similar to how schools are assigned in regional and sectionals in other IHSA sports.