Enrollment numbers significantly alter the Illinois football landscape - mostly by schools who won’t move up in class

Powerhouse East St. Louis almost certain to be a Class 5A team, IC Catholic could drop to Class 2A, Montini could drop to 3A

The Illinois High School Association released its enrollment numbers for the next cycle (the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 athletic campaigns) and as always there are some significant things that it unearths for the upcoming fall season.

But it shouldn’t be surprising that the loss of a fall season, and the indicators that help determine how the private and non-boundaried schools are classified lead to some potential problems when sorting things out.

The IHSA listed parameters for whether or not a school received a 1.65 multiplier to their school’s enrollment is that if a school won three playoff games over the previous two seasons (2019-20 and 2020-21 in this case) the multiplier would be applied.

Since there were no playoff games in 2020-21, that rule could only be prescribed to schools that won at least three playoff games in 2019-20. The IHSA confirmed that playoff wins in the 2019 football season would be the decider on whether or not teams will be multiplied.

Schools that met the current standard to be multiplied for the next cycle:

School2020-21 ClassificationActual EnrollmentAdjusted Enrollment
Sterling Newman Central CatholicClass 2A215.5355.58
Decatur St. TeresaClass 2A230379.5
Quincy Notre DameClass 3A388.5641.03
St. RitaClass 5A11611915.65
Rockford BoylanClass 5A768.51268.03
Chicago Mount CarmelClass 7A11761940.4
NazarethClass 7A (Success Formula added as well)754.51244.93
Brother RiceClass 8A13382207.7
MaristClass 8A1623.52278.78

In the case of these nine teams, not much will change for a few, but there are wrinkles within the group.

In order to better understand what those likely multiplied teams now face here’s the enrollment range breakdown of last year’s (2019-2020) playoff draw:

ClassificationSmallest EnrollmentLargest Enrollment
Class 1A101.5297
Class 2A298405
Class 3A406530
Class 4A531769
Class 5A7701238
Class 6A1238.51735
Class 7A17362216
Class 8A22174092

The biggest impact appears to be coming for St. Rita who will jump two classes back up to Class 7A where they resided for many seasons prior to receiving a multiplier waiver during the last cycle. Boylan and Quincy Notre Dame seem poised to go up one class, while Nazareth will actually go down.

That’s because Nazareth also was adjusted enrollment wise by the success formula. By winning state trophies in each of the two years prior to the last cycle, Nazareth was moved up one additional class beyond where their multiplied enrollment landed them. Since there aren’t two consecutive years of postseason from the last cycle since there were no fall games in 2020, the success formula can’t be applied to any program in the next two-year cycle of games. It isn’t out of the realm of possibilities that Nazareth could go down to 5A as well.

After going through the list of schools that will be multiplied, it might be even more important to look at who isn’t. The list typically includes a list of 20 or more programs that are being multiplied and consists of a who is who list of some of the state’s best. The list of programs that won’t face the multiplier for the next two postseasons include a number of teams one might be stunned to find there.

Here’s a list of the schools that experienced the largest football enrollment drop either by not being multiplied or by other factors.

SchoolCurrent EnrollmentNew EnrollmentCurrent Class/New Class
Niles Notre Dame2575.614808A/6A
Montini1073.335265A/3A or 4A
Sacred Heart Griffin1065.086075A/4A
Joliet Catholic1062.06616.55A/4A
Urban Prep Bronzeville6813164A/2A
Harlem20891739.57A/6A or 7A
Urban Prep Englewood5842464A/1A
Bishop McNamara564.33444A/2A
IC Catholic526.35323.54A/2A
Rockford East19291726.57A/6A or 7A

Let’s put the spotlight on a few of those programs listed above.

Loyola: The Ramblers are typically listed as one of the larger programs in Illinois when multiplied, so when they aren’t multiplied they experience the largest overall drop in their football enrollment of nearly 1,400 students. That also moves the Ramblers from near the end of the school list by enrollment to being one of the larger Class 7A squads.

Montini: The Broncos really look out of place in the Class 3A draw which seems like a distinct possibility with a new enrollment number of 526. They could slide up into the 4A field as one of the smaller schools in that draw, but either way, the Broncos (unless they elect to play up) would immediately become an overwhelming favorite in either of the two classes based on pedigree alone.

IC Catholic: One of just two teams that faced the success formula in 2019, and not only is that taken off the Knights so is the multiplier. IC Catholic won back-to-back-to-back titles from 2016 to 2018, and started their return to prominence with a state title run in Class 2A in 2008, which is the class they will almost certainly return to based on this information.

Bishop McNamara: The Fightin’ Irish have been a frequent visitor to the deeper rounds of the postseason over the past few years, but coming up short in the quarterfinals in 2019 gives them a waiver multiplier in a ticket to Class 2A where they immediately become a team of prominence.

Providence: The Celtics are no strangers to postseason advancement, but the most interesting thing in regards to Providence is that they likely will drop two classifications after no longer being subjected to the multiplier.

Other teams to take note of their enrollment decrease: Easily one of the noticeable enrollment switches that had nothing to do with the multiplier was East St. Louis.

The powerful Flyers, who aren’t allowed to opt-in to playing up in classification by their conference despite having done so in multiple seasons in the past, seem destined to be a Class 5A team after a significant drop in football enrollment. In 2019, the Flyers were very close to the 5A/6A border before sliding into Class 6A. East St. Louis’ new enrollment number decreased by 129, which almost makes them a virtual lock to land in Class 5A.

Other schools of note that dropped more than 100 students from their enrollment count are Peoria (-156), St. Laurence (-143) and Marian Central Catholic (-120). In each of those cases, those enrollment switches could help them drop to a lower classification if the numbers break the right way.

Let’s also take a look at the schools the experienced the largest increases in their enrollment. Although it isn’t as impactful as the dramatic enrollment decreases of the teams on the previous lists, it is important to look at the schools that often reside around the bubbles of the playoff classification lines. There are some on the list below.

Here’s a list of the schools that added the most football enrollment during the next two-year cycle:

SchoolCurrent EnrollmentNew Enrollment
St. Rita11611915.65
Rockford Boylan875.51268.03
Quincy Notre Dame407641.03
Burlington Central1063.51209
Oswego East25972730.5
Joliet Central31753299
Vernon Hills1367.51470.5
Rockford Guilford1732.51818.5

Note: Phillips has voluntarily played up in previous seasons, competing in Class 7A last year. If classified by enrollment only, Phillips would be a Class 4A team.

In 2019, Rochester was another team that was watched carefully because of their enrollment. The Rockets had been a dominant force in Class 4A winning multiple titles, before sliding into the Class 5A field as one of the smallest schools. The Rockets added 23 to their enrollment number to land at 793, which will put them firmly on the bubble between 4A and 5A once again, especially considering the prominent teams that appear to be on their way down in classification.

All of this may incite multiple programs above to elect to play up in the classifications they’ve become accustomed to, but it doesn’t seem likely that all of them will causing a shake up of notable proportions once we get back to being able to obsess over bracket constructions.

Steve Soucie

Steve Soucie

Steve Soucie has been the Sports Editor at the Joliet Herald News since August of 2018. Prior to that, Soucie worked at the Kankakee Daily Journal and for Pro Football Weekly.