Todd Tharp with the association says this year had another twist as they looked at recommendations from the schools on changes after deciding to cut the number of teams which will qualify for the playoffs.
He says one of the suggestions was to move from eight districts of seven to seven districts of eight teams for class 1-A, 2-A and 3-A. “One of the concerns that the football coaches shared was playing a non-district game in the middle of the season.”
Tharp says that configuration of the districts won’t change playoff qualifiers. “We will still qualify 16, we’ll take the district champion and the district runner-up, and then will have kind of two at-large berths, which might protect the situation where maybe we have a three-way tie for district champion, and in the past maybe that team would get left out,” Tharp explains.
Enrollment changes caused some schools to move up a class. “Newton is a 4-A school this year, Epworth Western-Dubque is a 4-A…North Polk Alleman jumps up to 3-A, Spirit Lake moves up to 3-A, West Burlington Nortre Dame moves up to 3-A,” Tharp says.
Other schools dropped down in class, including five new schools that decided to play 8-player football. He says those schools have to be at 115 students or below and all the schools that moved down played in Class A last year. Some eight-man schools moved up in class after entering sharing agreements with other districts. He say some programs that have been perennial powers are combining, including Marcus-Meridan-Cleghorn and Remson-Union in northwest Iowa, Harmony is sharing with Van Buren, CAL is now in with Clarion-Goldifeld to move up.
Tharp says the goal is to make sure schools of the same size are playing each other. Tharp says they want to keep the enrollments close, but says that sometimes doesn’t happen, and the largest gap is in 4-A. The 4-A gap goes from around 2,100 for the largest school to 633 for the smallest in 4-A. With the district situation set, now schools will be figuring out the rest of the schedule.
“They have about nine days here to chose who they want to play non-district wise. On February 1st we will go back and create the schedules for all 344 schools — home and away schedules for the next two years,” Tharp says. Schools must play in the same class the next two years to be eligible for the playoffs. If they make a change in class after the first year, then they are not eligible for the playoffs until the next redistricting.
You can see the changes on the IHSAA website.