Analysis

North bracket has been dominant since 1-to-16 bracketing implemented

Members of the Byron football team hoist the Class 3A trophy after defeating Tolono, 35-7, at Huskie Stadium on Friday Nov. 26, 2021 in DeKalb.

The IHSA announced Monday that all eight classifications of the playoffs will now be seeded 1-through-32.

The last time all classes were seeded 1-through-32 was 2001. Starting in the 2002 season, the state moved into a quadrant pairing system that had teams grouped in pods of eight teams each.

In 2006, a hybrid form was used where, if the geography allowed, teams could be placed in brackets of 1-to-16 or in groups of eight teams if there was too much of a geographical disparity. Also in 2006, Class 7A and Class 8A became 16-team brackets.

In 2015, the quadrant system was abandoned in favor of 1-to-16 brackets in Classes 1A through 6A. The 7A and 8A classes were then moved to a 1-to-32 seeding system.

The constant of this practice, regardless of the formatting, was that the 32-team bracket was divided into a north half and south half. With a few geographic manipulations along the way, typically the 16 northern most schools in a classification would be on one side and the 16 southern schools on the other.

It’s also led to a number of lopsided championship game weekends where the north side tends to dominate.

Here’s a look at how the championship game results have sorted out since the brackets were divided into north and south:

ClassificationWins by bracket placement
Class 1ANorth Bracket: 13; South Bracket: 6
Class 2ANorth Bracket: 18, South Bracket: 1
Class 3ANorth Bracket: 15, South Bracket: 4
Class 4ANorth Bracket: 10, South Bracket: 9
Class 5ANorth Bracket: 11, South Bracket: 8
Class 6ANorth Bracket: 14, South Bracket: 5
TotalNorth Bracket: 81, South Bracket: 33

Only two of the six classifications find the south bracket holding its own in head-to-head matchups. There’s a rather easy explanation for that. Rochester holds seven Class 4A titles and is almost solely responsible for the south bracket holding its own in that class.

The Rockets also have a 5A title, and when coupled with Sacred-Heart Griffin and its five titles, that accounts for a large chunk of the south bracket’s success in 5A. In total, those two schools account more than 40% of the south bracket’s winners for all six of the classes divided into north-south bracketing.

So what happened the last year (2001) that all classifications were in 1-to-32 bracketing?

Two schools that have always been classified in southern brackets (Edwardsville and Mt. Carmel) reached the finals. Two more (Lexington and LeRoy) might have found themselves in either the north or south brackets based on the geographical construction of the field that year.

All eight champions were awarded to schools that are almost always north bracket schools in 2001.