Most NewsTribune-area football coaches are in favor of the state moving to districts.
“I am all for it,” La Salle-Peru coach Jose Medina said. “Districts would eliminate the issue of teams jumping from conference to conference, makes scheduling easier and schools would play schools of equal size.”
The IHSA’s Legislative Commission put Proposal 18 on a ballot for membership consideration. Schools will vote on the district proposal and 14 other proposals from Dec. 3-18.
Proposal 18, which was submitted from the members of the Interstate 8 Conference, of which L-P is a member, along with members of the Apollo, Big Twelve and DuPage Valley conferences, proposes that the IHSA would be given the responsibility of forming districts based on geography and classification status.
“It simplifies the changing landscape with the emergence of 8-man football. It’s getting too hard to keep travel down while also playing schools your own size. Districts also take the politics out of the whole conference thing and can allow other sports to keep alliances that make sense for all sports besides football.”— Mat Pistole, Bureau Valley coach
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.
“It could help calm down the constant conference realignment issues,” Mendota coach Keegan Hill said. “The current uncertainty from year to year makes things difficult for administration, coaches and athletic programs as a whole.”
Most area schools have experienced conference changes in the last decade plus.
Since 2009, L-P has been in the NCIC, Northern Illinois Big 12 and Interstate 8 conferences along with the Interstate 8/Kishwaukee River for football only.
Hall was in the NCIC, West Central, Big Rivers and Three Rivers conferences, Mendota has been a member of the NCIC, West Central, Big Northern and Three Rivers conferences and Princeton has been part of the NCIC, West Central and Three Rivers conferences.
The Bruins left this school year to join the newly-formed Chicagoland Prairie Conference.
“We hope it happens,” St. Bede coach Jim Eustice said. “Too much conference moving and uncertainty statewide.”
The Storm are leaving the Three Rivers after this school year to become part of the Lincoln Trail/Prairieland Conference.
“Districts are what we have needed at BV for a while now,” Storm coach Mat Pistole said. “It simplifies the changing landscape with the emergence of 8-man football. It’s getting too hard to keep travel down while also playing schools your own size. Districts also take the politics out of the whole conference thing and can allow other sports to keep alliances that make sense for all sports besides football.”
Princeton coach Ryan Pearson said he’ll vote no on the current proposal, but he’s not necessarily opposed to districts.
“Honestly, I don’t like all of the unknowns that come with this proposal,” Pearson said. “If I knew exactly who would be in our district, what our travel would be, how many nonconference games we would be allowed, etc., I would be more inclined to vote for it. Until those questions are answered, my vote would be no.”
Fieldcrest has had the most stable conference situation among NewsTribune area teams as part of the Heart of Illinois Conference since its inception in 2006. The league has had some changes with Eureka joining in 2016 and Blue Ridge leaving in 2018 as well as Ridgeview and Lexington forming a co-op and the conference splitting into divisions.
“We’re in a unique spot where we’re the most northern team in our current conference and always on that 1A/2A border for enrollment,” Fieldcrest coach Nick Meyer said. “If it doesn’t pass, we’re excited to stay in the HOIC - great players, great coaches and great programs to compete against. If it does pass, we could have some carryover from the HOIC or play seven new opponents. There’s lots up in the air and it’s too early to know if it’ll be a good or bad change for Fieldcrest.”