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IHSAA looking at going to an 8-game football regular season

Proposed changes also includes expanding playoff qualifiers from 16 to 32 in five of the six classes

WEBSTER CITY — The Iowa High School Athletic Association announced on Thursday it is exploring the possibility of expanding the state football playoffs to 32 teams and dropping a regular season game in five of the six classes starting in 2020.

The Iowa Football Coaches Association offered up two recommendations to the IHSAA Board of Control, one of which was dismissed.

The coaches proposed keeping a nine-game regular season and expanding the playoff qualifiers from 16 to 32 teams in Classes 8-man, A, 1A, 2A and 3A. That would have meant a six-day layoff between rounds rather than the current seven-day waiting period, a proposal the Board of Control rejected.

The second proposal also upped the qualifiers from 16 to 32, but slashed a game off the regular season schedule to allow for a seven-day layoff between playoff rounds. Prior to the semifinals, the playoffs would remain on Friday nights.

The Board of Control will wait until its January meeting to make a final decision on the second proposal to allow it time to reach out to the coaches and administrators of 4A schools. With only 42 schools in the state’s largest classification, it will likely remain at 16 playoff qualifiers.

“We appreciate the advisory committee’s recommendations and the work the committee has done to reach those recommendations,” IHSAA executive director Tom Keating said. “The board has decided to table action on playoff qualifiers in order to address all classes at the same time.”

WCHS head football coach Bob Howard was not surprised by the latest developments, but he’s weary of dropping from nine to eight games in the regular season.

“I’m not in favor of it, but mainly because I hate to see us losing a regular season game in a sport that’s already losing opportunities for kids to play at the freshman and (junior varsity) levels,” he said. “I’m in favor of 32 in the playoffs just so the kids that go 8-1 or 7-2 get an opportunity to experience the playoffs, but I don’t think losing a (regular season) game has to happen.

“The sport that has participation sagging, you want to cut a regular season game and give kids one less chance to play football? That would be tough.”

In the eight-game regular season scenario, there has been speculation that the IHSAA could allow non-qualifying teams to schedule a ninth game against another non-qualifying team. However, the Board of Control made no mention of that possibility at Thursday’s meeting, according to the board notes released to the public.

The loss of a regular season game could also mean the possibility of schools losing thousands of dollars from gate receipts. Football is widely considered the most profitable sport at most schools and the money it generates is used to fund other sports.

The IHSAA football playoffs was expanded from 16 to 32 qualifiers per class in 2018, but returned to 16 qualifiers in all classes in 2016.

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