IHSA puts district football back up for membership vote

If approved, proposal would be implemented for 2024

The Wilmington Wildcats and coach Jeff Reents celebrate their 28-3 win over Athens Friday, Nov. 24, 2023 in the 2A state football championship game at Hancock Stadium in Normal.

The Illinois High School Association’s Legislative Commission officially placed Proposal 18 on a ballot for membership consideration.

Proposal 18, which was submitted from the members of the Apollo, Big Twelve, Interstate 8 and DuPage Valley conferences, proposes that the IHSA would be given the responsibility of forming districts based on geography and classification status. District games would be played in Weeks 3-9 of the regular season with the first two weeks of the season being reserved for non-district games that won’t count toward playoff qualification but would factor into seeding. The top four teams in each district would qualify for the IHSA playoffs.

Schools will be allowed to vote on this proposal and the other 14 proposals on the ballot from Dec. 3-18. The IHSA will announce the results of the vote on Dec. 19.

The proposal is fundamentally very similar to a proposal that passed in 2018, but then was rescinded when placed back on the ballot during the 2019 legislative process. One of the most notable differences about this proposal is that it would be implemented for the 2024 season and would not have time to go back through the legislative process.

The original 2018 proposal passed 324-307 (69 no opinions) and was set to be put into play for the 2020 season. In between the 2018 vote and the 2019 legislative proposal period, mock districts were released by the IHSA for consideration as to what the new system might look like. A proposal was made during the 2019 legislative period that asked that the proposal be overturned and returned to the original playoff structure, which it was by a vote of 374-241 (with 87 no opinions).

There is no plan by the submitters of the proposal to provide a look at how the new system will look.

Friday Night Drive will produce a mock of how the system could potentially look next week.

The seeding process would be similar to the way teams are currently seeded with teams that qualify for the playoffs being placed in the bracket first by number of wins and then separated by the number of wins accumulated by one’s opponents or “playoff points”. Teams from the same district could not be paired together in the first round. The IHSA would still reserve the right to break the bracket into two 16-team brackets or seed the bracket from 1-32.

Current systems involving the multiplier, “playing up” provisions and success formula would also be applied.

The structure of this proposal would require 512 playoff-eligible teams to work without some sort of modification. Last season there were 498 playoff-eligible teams to start the season, four of those schools did not finish or only partly completed the regular season. There were also 22 teams in the Chicago Public League that participated, four of which also did not fully complete seasons, but were not playoff eligible.

The proposal as written doesn’t quantify what happens to the districts if there are 1) not enough teams to fill all districts, 2) too many teams to place in the districts and how it would be decided that the shortfall or over-run teams would be handled if either of those situations should arise.

The districts would be built entirely on a geographical basis. No consideration will be given for relative levels of previous success. If two neighboring districts have an imbalance in terms of competitiveness nothing will be done to adjust them.

Other football related proposals

• Proposal 17, which creates the opportunity for teams to conduct a preseason scrimmage with another school, is on the ballot for consideration.

If passed, scrimmages would be held the weekend prior to the regular season with a limit to number of plays a player could participate, no special teams play and the use of IHSA officials.

• Proposal 13, which would have changed the way the 1.65 multiplier on non-boundary schools was calculated, did not receive enough support to be placed on the ballot.