Analysis

Soucie: Let’s take a deep dive into the potential 2021 postseason classifications

You often hear, “Numbers don’t lie.”

But sometimes they don’t tell the full truth either.

The hard numbers show that not many things are likely to change in classifying teams for the 2021 postseason, but a deeper dive into the process shows the numbers themselves tell a different story.

Listed below are the predicted classification breaks for each of the eight classes along with the last postseason (2019) classification breaks:

Classification2021 fall projection2019 postseason range
Class 1A305.5 and below297 and below
Class 2A306-408.5298-405
Class 3A409-548406-530
Class 4A549-785.5531-769
Class 5A786-1,244.93770-1,238
Class 6A1,245-1,739.51,238.5-1,735
Class 7A1,740-2,207.71,736-2,216
Class 8A2,208 and up2,217 and up

On the surface these numbers indeed don’t look all that different. A deeper dive, however, reveals that we could have a postseason picture that looks significantly different than what we’ve become accustomed to.

The largest reason things aren’t quite what they seem was the IHSA’s decision to stick to the multiplier formula it planned to use pre-pandemic. Due to a change prior to the 2019 football season, football schools are now classified by an enrollment number over a two-year period (2019 and 2020) and would be reclassified by new enrollment numbers for 2021 and 2022.

The formula for how private and nonboundaried schools are multiplied also remained the same, which is basically any school that had won three of more playoff games over the two previous campaigns (2019 and 2020) would have its enrollment multiplied by 1.65. But since we did not play in 2020 and no schools accumulated playoff wins, that limited the number of schools that would be multiplied to schools that advanced to the semifinals (three playoff wins) in the 2019 playoffs.

That sliced a list of schools that usually has about 20 of the state’s power programs down to just nine. Brother Rice, Mount Carmel, St. Teresa, Nazareth, Newman Central Catholic and Marist kept the multiplier designation that they had previously, while Boylan, St. Rita and Quincy Notre Dame added the multiplier.

As such, many of the schools typically hit with the multiplier will find themselves dropping down in classification unless they voluntarily choose to play up. Currently no schools have declared an intention to play up. The lone school to play up in 2019, Chicago Phillips, has not informed the IHSA if it will do so again. Phillips voluntarily moved from Class 4A to Class 7A for the playoffs in 2019 and would have done so again in 2020 had a season been played. If teams declare that they want to play up, they will be doing so for a two-year period and schools can choose how many classifications they would like to go up.

Here are the 10 schools that experienced the largest enrollment drop from the last postseason due to not being multiplied. In some cases the schools listed will drop as many as two classes if they were to qualify for the playoffs:

School2021 FB Enrollment2019 FB EnrollmentDifference
Loyola1,9853,346.2-1361.2
Niles Notre Dame1,4802,575.6-1095.6
Benet1,313.52,193.68-880.18
Providence8581,621.95-763.05
Montini5261,073.33-547.33
Sacred Heart Griffin6071,065.08-458.08
Joliet Catholic616.51,062.6-446.1
Bishop McNamara344564.3-220.3
IC Catholic323.5526.35-202.85
St. Laurence853.5710.5-143

Loyola, which also previously faced the success formula in addition to the multiplier, saw the largest drop in enrollment number and will virtually guarantee that the Ramblers are now a Class 7A team should they qualify for the postseason.

Loyola coach John Holecek admitted to not being that concerned about what class his team might be locked into come the postseason.

“We’ve got bigger problems right now,” Holecek said. “We’ll worry about getting in first.”

One might think that’s preseason bluster from Holecek for a program that is currently riding a 17-year streak of qualifying for the postseason. But there’s underlying reasons for concern. Loyola’s CCL/ESCC slate includes St. Rita, Brother Rice, Marist and Mount Carmel, and its nonconference schedule brings a tricky matchup with Marquette High School out of Milwaukee.

On top of that, Loyola still hasn’t been able to find a Week 2 opponent and time has pretty much ran out on that endeavor. As such, the Ramblers will only have eight chances, rather than nine, to get to the five-win plateau needed to punch their playoff ticket. One small positive: with that stacked schedule, the Ramblers likely wouldn’t need to sweat playoff points.

Montini is one of the programs that will likely see a two-class drop if it makes the postseason.

And although it is not recent, Montini has played all over the classification landscape in the past. Montini has been either Class 5A or Class 6A in every postseason since 2005, but prior to that Montini was either a 3A or a 4A team from 1993 to 2004. (One note: The IHSA expanded classifications from six to eight in the 2000 campaign.)

“Most people don’t really realize where our enrollment really is,” Montini coach Mike Bukovsky said.

Bukovsky, like Holecek, also expressed concerns about his team’s ability to reach the field as its schedule features a number of heavyweights, particularly in the back half of the slate.

If Montini does make it in, the Broncos have no plans of playing in any other class than the one assigned to.

Like Loyola, IC Catholic had a pair of adjustments made to its enrollment number for the upcoming two seasons. Not only were the Knights not multiplied for the upcoming campaign, they also had the success formula removed from their equation.

The success formula (an automatic move up of one classification) isn’t even available to be applied to any school based on the decision to include 2020 in the calculation. Teams have the success formula attached if they receive a team trophy at the state finals in the two previous seasons. Since there were no trophies in 2020, no success formula designation could be applied to any team.

IC Catholic’s multiplied enrollment placed it squarely in the Class 3A ranks, while the success formula moved it into the 4A ranks. Now, without the multiplier and with the success formula removed, the Knights appear to be on their way back to Class 2A.

IC Catholic’s 2008 team captured a 2A title in dominating fashion before the school started to climb the enrollment ladder. The Knights later would win 3A titles in 2015 and 2016 before having the success formula applied in 2017, when they went on to claim a 4A title.

Three teams added the multiplier after not having it previously. St. Rita is likely the most notable of the trio, having marched to the Class 5A state title game, where it fell to Rochester in the 2019 final. St. Rita’s rise to prominence was helped along by its dropping of the multiplier in the previous period. Prior to the 2019 title run, St. Rita’s last 11 playoff appearances found it multiplied and in Class 7A, where it seems likely to return to if it qualifies in 2021.

Here are the three teams that had multipliers added to their enrollment after not being multiplied for the previous period:

School2021 FB Enrollment2019 FB EnrollmentDifference
St. Rita1,915.651,161754.65
Rockford Boylan1,268.03875.5392.53
Quincy Notre Dame641.03407234.03

Boylan and Quincy Notre Dame both reached the semifinals of their respective classes as nonmultiplied schools. Boylan reached the semifinals in Class 5A, which strangely enough might still be the class it finds itself in as a multiplied school; although it seems more likely that Boylan will end up as one of the smaller enrollment schools in 6A.

Had Quincy Notre Dame not been multiplied, it might have fallen to 2A, one class below where the Raiders were in 2019 when they bowed out to 3A state champion Williamsville in the semifinal.

Multiplied schools aren’t the only ones that saw significant changes in their enrollment numbers. A total of 54 schools, private and public, saw their enrollment numbers drop by at least 100 students. Conversely, 16 schools saw the enrollment numbers go up by at least 100 students.

Here are the schools with the most notable enrollment declines from schools that are not subjected to potential multipliers:

School2021 FB Enrollment2019 FB EnrollmentDifference
Machesney Park Harlem1,739.52,089-349.5
Chicago Schurz1,5701,772.5-202.5
Rockford East1,726.51,929-202.5
Gurnee Warren3,893.54,092-198.5
Crete-Monee1,4471,637-190
Thornton1,609.51,793.5-184
Neuqua Valley3,522.53,680-157.5
Peoria1,217.51,374-156.5
Chicago Julian416.5570.5-154
Chicago Morgan Park1,0841,238-154
Bloom2,804.52,948-143.5
Cahokia769.5905.5-136
Lincoln-Way Central2,0142,147-133
Naperville Central2,697.52,827.5-130
East St. Louis1,1331,262-129

And here are the schools not eligible to be multiplied that saw the largest increases in enrollment.

School2021 FB Enrollment2019 FB EnrollmentDifference
Chicago Taft3,3233,047.5+275.5
Evanston3,558.53,372+186.5
Chicago Kenwood1,662.51,500.5+162
Stevenson4,2664,107+159
Burlington Central1,2091,063.5+145.5
Chicago Amundsen1,3351,196.5+138.5
Hampshire1,747.51,612+135.5
Oswego East2,730.52,597+133.5
Joliet Central3,2993,175+124
Yorkville1,868.51,763.5+105
Vernon Hills1,470.51,367.5+103

So what does all of this mean? Although the enrollment break projects don’t appear to have changed all that much in raw numbers, these enrollment changes shift which teams are inside of those prospective brackets.

Let’s take a class-by-class look and see how the enrollment numbers have an impact on the individual classes.

Class 1A

Projected enrollment range: 305.5 and below

Schools projected to fall in 1A range: 63

Schools closest to the Class 2A cutoff line from closest to farthest: Chicago Raby, Oakwood, Gibson City-Melvin Sibley, Watseka and Chicago Perspectives Leadership.

Schools currently in 2A closest to the 1A line from closest to farthest: Rushville, Petersburg (PORTA), Ridgeview, Iroquois West and Warrensburg-Latham.

Class 1A typically grabs one of the largest number of schools that fall in their enrollment range as they typically have the largest number of schools that don’t reach the playoffs.

The reason for this is that in most circumstances 1A schools are usually in conferences with 2A and sometimes 3A schools. They rarely are able to overcome those enrollment differences and sustain that success over a long period of time.

The class also usually sees a significant change in its makeup because its programs are the ones most likely to defect to 8-man football, experience a school closure or have a program elect not to continue playing varsity football. All of those circumstances effected Class 1A, as the list of teams that have sustained success remain but those teams that were often on the wrong side have fallen by the wayside.

The usual suspects are mostly likely to return to the 1A ranks should they qualify. One notable absence will be incurred by 2019 quarterfinalist, Aquin, which is now in the 8-man football ranks.

Class 2A

Projected enrollment range: 306 to 408.5

Schools projected to fall in 2A range: 71

Schools currently in 2A closest to the 1A line from closest to farthest: Rushville, Petersburg (PORTA), Ridgeview, Iroquois West and Warrensburg-Latham.

Schools currently in 2A closest to the 3A line from closest to farthest: Vandalia, Erie, Riverton, Pleasant Plains and Oregon.

Schools currently in 3A closest to the 2A line from closest to farthest: Farmington, Wilmington, Nashville, Chicago Julian and Alton Marquette.

The typical strongholds are still present in Class 2A, but they’ll be joined by two programs with a lot of state hardware as neither are still multiplied in IC Catholic and Bishop McNamara.

There are some intriguing programs you don’t typically think of as Class 2A programs hovering near the projected line as small Class 3A programs as well, most notably Wilmington and Farmington. A slight field shift could see those programs shifted down to 2A as well.

Class 3A

Projected enrollment range: 410 to 548

Schools projected to fall in 3A range: 59

Schools currently in 3A closest to the 2A line from closest to farthest: Farmington, Wilmington, Nashville, Chicago Julian and Alton Marquette..

Schools currently in 3A closest to the 4A line from closest to farthest: Benton, Princeton, Clinton, Vienna and Roxana.

Schools currently in 4A closest to the 3A line from closest to farthest: Genoa-Kingston, Harrisburg, Marian Central, Stillman Valley and Paris.

Minus the possible addition of one team that would immediately alter the look of the class, most of Class 3A looks pretty unchanged based on the projection.

The team in question is Montini, which as a nonmultiplied team, would likely drop from 5A to the Class 3A field.

Bubble watch is pretty interesting here as well. Class stalwart Wilmington experienced a pretty significant enrollment drop, which puts it on the Class 2A/3A fence, while 2019 semifinalist Princeton is close enough to the Class 4A line that it merits keeping an eye on.

Class 4A

Projected enrollment range: 555.5 to 785.5

Schools projected to fall in 4A range: 54

Schools currently in 4A closest to the 3A line from closest to farthest: Genoa-Kingston, Harrisburg, Marian Central Catholic, Stillman Valley and Paris.

Schools currently in 4A closest to the 5A line from closest to farthest: Agricultural Science, Bogan, Rantoul, Cahokia and Mount Zion.

Schools currently in 5A closest to the 4A line from closest to farthest: De La Salle, Rochester, Charleston, Lincoln and Evergreen Park.

If no teams elect to play up in classification, as is the current state of things, no class looks more different than Class 4A is poised to.

Nearly every school that has established itself as a powerhouse remains other than IC Catholic and Bishop McNamara, who as a result of not being multiplied, both seem destined for Class 2A.

Adding into the mix are a trio of behemoths in Joliet Catholic, Sacred Heart Griffin and Phillips. Phillips had elected to play up in 2019 and would have again in 2020 but has not declared its intent to do so again as of yet.

In addition, Rochester, a 4A powerhouse that was moved up to 5A for 2019, resides so close to the 4A/5A bubble that it could end up back in 4A again as well.

So imagine a field that could include, in no particular order: Stillman Valley, Joliet Catholic, Sacred Heart Griffin, Richmond-Burton, Columbia, Quincy Notre Dame, Phillips, Coal City, Wheaton St. Francis, St. Laurence, Effingham, Mount Zion and possibly Rochester.

If no one plays up, it very well could happen. And if it does, buckle up because that’s a wild ride.

Class 5A

Projected enrollment range: 791.5 to 1,244.93

Schools projected to fall in 4A range: 68

Schools currently in 5A closest to the 4A line from closest to farthest: De La Salle, Rochester, Charleston, Lincoln and Evergreen Park.

Schools currently in 5A closest to the 6A line from closest to farthest: Nazareth, Steinmetz, Westinghouse, Peoria and Sycamore.

Schools currently in 6A closest to the 5A line from closest to farthest: Ottawa, Galesburg, Rockford Boylan, Prosser and Kankakee.

On the surface it looks like 5A might have taken a whole bunch of hits with some titans of the classification moving down to 4A.

Both of 2019′s title combatants might not be in the 5A field either. Rochester is close enough to going back to 4A that it might not be there, and St. Rita is definitely going up in classification after having its multiplier reinstated.

The additions, however, are something else. East St. Louis experienced an enrollment reduction of over 100 students and is no longer a bubble team between 5A and 6A. And since its conference still won’t allow the Flyers to play up, lock it in, they are going to Class 5A.

Another interesting wrinkle could be Nazareth. The Roadrunners still have the multiplier, but they no longer have the success formula that had previously pushed them into 7A. There’s no lock that Nazareth could end up in Class 5A, but they currently reside as the largest projected school in that classification.

Other potential adds are Providence and Peoria.

Class 6A

Projected enrollment range: 1,245 to 1,739.5

Schools projected to fall in 4A range: 59

Schools currently in 6A closest to the 5A line from closest to farthest: Ottawa, Galesburg, Rockford Boylan, Prosser and Kankakee.

Schools currently in 6A closest to the 7A line from closest to farthest: Harlem, Rockford Jefferson, Rockford East, Wheeling and East Moline United.

Schools currently in 7A closest to the 6A line from closest to farthest: Von Steuben, Hampshire, Quincy, Shepard and Grant.

Class 6A looks as wide open as ever; although the number of teams actually shifting out of the classification isn’t that heavy.

But the quality can’t be questioned because one team that is certainly leaving the group is East St. Louis.

Nazareth is also barely holding on to a slot in the projection’s Class 5A field and could easily end up here.

Harlem is another bubble team to keep an eye on. The Huskies are currently projected as the largest Class 6A squad and could easily shift back into Class 7A mix.

Class 7A

Projected enrollment range: 1744.5 to 2207.7

Schools projected to fall in 4A range: 62

Schools currently in 7A closest to the 6A line from closest to farthest: Von Steuben, Hampshire, Quincy, Shepard and Grant.

Schools currently in 7A closest to the 8A line from closest to farthest: Brother Rice, Plainfield East, Downers Grove North, Lincoln Park and McHenry.

Schools currently in 8A closest to the 7A line from closest to farthest: Round Lake, Andrew, Glenbard North, Proviso West, Glenbard East.

Class 7A tends to be a pretty wild classification.

It’s going to get wilder.

The removal of a multiplier of one powerhouse and the addition of a multiplier to another insures that this field will be stocked.

Loyola’s multiplier removal led to the largest individual shift downward of any school in the state enrollment-wise and puts the Ramblers squarely in the 7A mix. St. Rita, which added the multiplier, was the school that saw the largest individual addition to its enrollment number.

Both will fortify a field that frankly doesn’t need much help in that department.

Brother Rice will also be an interesting situation to monitor. The Crusaders remain multiplied, but the school’s actual enrollment dropped enough that the football enrollment still dropped by over 100. It was enough of a shift to make Brother Rice a bubble school between 7A and 8A rather than a locked-in 8A squad. It currently resides as the largest school in the projected Class 7A field.

Class 8A

Projected enrollment range: 2211.5 and up

Schools projected to fall in 4A range: 62

Schools currently in 8A closest to the 7A line from closest to farthest: Round Lake, Andrew, Glenbard North, Proviso West and Glenbard East.

No one is likely fretting Loyola’s departure to 7A from the membership of the Class 8A field.

It’s hard enough as it is.

The field has plenty of heavy hitters that seem locked into spots in a potential Class 8A field, but how the field shakes out with the teams on the bubble between 7A and 8A could make this field a minefield for any entrant as soon as the first round.

For now, a group of teams that includes Plainfield North, Edwardsville, Glenbard West and Maine South look relatively firm as Class 8A teams. But a few upstarts from larger enrollment schools could shift them into 7A. A reverse shift could push even more teams with quite a pedigree into the Class 8A field.