Lynx stay in 3A District 2 for 2018, 2019 seasons

All 9 regular season games will count towards playoff qualification, IHSAA announces

WCHS football coaches (left to right) Andy Brim, Clint Howard and Bob Howard watch from the sideline during the Lynx game at Perry last fall. WCHS will remain in Class 3A District 2 for the next two seasons. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

WEBSTER CITY — Changes are coming to the prep football landscape in the fall.

On Wednesday, the Iowa High School Athletic Association laid out its new qualifying guidelines for the state playoffs and announced how the districts will be aligned. On Thursday, the new districts were released to the public.

Webster City will once again be housed in Class 3A District 2 and will be joined by Boone, Carroll, Dallas Center-Grimes, Humboldt and Perry. South Hamilton will be a part of 1A District 2 along with Eagle Grove, Madrid, Ogden, Pocahontas Area and South Central Calhoun.

In both 1A and 3A, there will be nine districts of six teams. There will also be four non-district games.

WCHS head coach Bob Howard wasn’t surprised by his program’s new home. Only Carroll will be new to District 2, but the Tigers were a mainstay on the Lynx schedule prior to the previous district alignment in 2016.

“It’s as good as any I guess,” Howard said of the new district. “I didn’t expect Carroll, but it was no surprise and we’ve been with Carroll before. The travel isn’t too bad either.”

Schedules for the 2018 and 2019 seasons aren’t expected to be released until late February or early March. Schools will spend the next few weeks coming up with a list of teams they would like to face in non-district games. Those lists will be turned in to the IHSAA, which will then make the decisions and schedules.

Longtime rival Iowa Falls-Alden will certainly be one of Howard’s choices, he said. WCHS also has a standing rivalry with Clear Lake, but whether or not the Lions and Lynx will face off is anyone’s guess.

“My guess is people are going to keep these pretty close to the vest,” Howard said with regards to non-district choices.

Those non-district games will be just as important as the district contests, as new playoff guidelines stipulate that all nine games will now count towards the postseason. Under the new format, only the district champion or teams tying for a district title earn guaranteed playoff spots.

The remainder of the wild-card entrants into the playoffs will be chosen using the state’s new Ratings Percentage Index, which will use three criteria to determine postseason qualification: team’s overall win-loss percentage (accounting for 37.5 percent of the index), team’s opponents’ win-loss percentage (37.5 percent) and team’s opponents’ opponents’ win-loss percentage (25 percent).

The RPI is similar to what the NCAA uses in several men’s and women’s sports.

“Our goal is to have the 16 best teams in each class qualify for the playoffs,” IHSAA Executive Director Alan Beste said regarding the new format. “We believe we get closer to that goal by having only district champions as automatic qualifiers, and the remainder of qualifiers determined by their success and the successes of their opponents and other successful teams.”

The playoffs will remain at 16 qualifiers per class for at least the next two seasons. The Iowa Football Coaches Association and playoff football advisory committee recommended that the playoffs return to 32 qualifiers per class like it was from 2008-2015, but the IHSAA rejected that proposal.

“The coaches wanted to go back to 32 teams, but obviously that was at odds with the association,” Howard said. “The only way it could have been done was to play the Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving (week) which we thought we had worked out, but they didn’t feel that way.”

Howard says he’ll take a wait and see approach with the new RPI format.

“Honest to God, I don’t know how it will work out,” he said. “But my absolute No. 1 objective will be to win the district and not have to worry about the RPI.”

WCHS has qualified for the playoffs in each of the last 10 seasons. The Lynx reached the state championship game in 2016.

Dallas Center-Grimes won the District 2 title in 2017 and WCHS qualified for the playoffs as the district runner-up.

Also on Wednesday, the IHSAA announced that it has approved reinstatement of teams from Iowa playing teams from border states Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Kansas. Iowa teams have not been allowed to schedule out-of-state games since 2011.