IHSAA stays with 9 football games for 2020

Significant changes in 4A, status quo in other classes for upcoming season

WCHS football coach Bob Howard prepares to send a play in with wide receiver Carter Neuroth during a game last fall. The Lynx will remain in Class 3A District 2 for the 2020 season. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

WEBSTER CITY — Drastic changes to Iowa’s prep football landscape were put on hold for the time being on Wednesday when the Iowa High School Athletic Association Board of Control voted down a proposal that would have reduced the regular season from nine to eight games.

Instead, the status quo — a nine-game regular season with 16 qualifiers for the state playoffs in each of the six classes — will remain in place for the 2020 season.

District realignment was also announced, but only for the 2020 season — a one-year cycle rather than the usual two-year shift. The IHSAA said it will spend the next year discussing potential changes that could be put into place for the 2021 season and beyond.

There will be 40 programs in Class 4A, while 54 will be housed in 3A, 2A and 1A. Class A will be the home for 60 programs, and 8-man will be made up of 68 teams.

Webster City was placed into 3A District 2 alongside Ballard, Boone, Gilbert, Humboldt and Mason City, which was one of two schools — Burlington being the other — that dropped down a class. The Lynx will have five district games, as well as four non-district games against opponents yet to be determined. The IHSAA says full schedules will be released in March.

“It’s always exciting when things get shaken up,” WCHS head football coach Bob Howard said. “Sometimes you don’t like it and sometimes you’re optimistic. We keep Humboldt, which is a good conference rival, and we’re always going to be with Boone. Ballard is a good strong program, and the interesting one is Mason City because they’re dropping down. With Gilbert, we lose a non-district game, so we’ll have to find another opponent there.

“To me, it’s still about how hard we’re going to work and are we going to keep improving? Hopefully this will be a shot in the arm to keep working hard.”

Off the Lynx schedule, at least during the district portion, are both Dallas Center-Grimes and Carroll — the last two 3A District 2 champions. Schools can provide a list of opponents they would like to play during the non-district portion of the season, but the IHSAA ultimately will have the final say on scheduling.

Playoff qualifiers from 3A down to 8-man will not change from the past two seasons. The district champions will automatically qualify, while the RPI will be in place to determine the at-large berths.

No changes have been made to the RPI, a formula that has been somewhat confusing for coaches and fans alike to understand. But Howard has a simple explanation as to why he’s not bothered by the RPI.

“If you win the district, the RPI doesn’t matter,” he said.

South Hamilton will be a part of 1A District 3 along with Aplington-Parkersburg, Dike-New Hartford, East Marshall, Hudson and South Hardin. Inside the district, South Hamilton played only South Hardin a season ago.

“We’re obviously in a very solid, tough district,” South Hamilton head coach Corey Klemp said. “There are a lot of storied programs there with Aplington-Parkersburg, Dike New-Hartford and Hudson, and I think South Hardin is a team that’s on the rise. But I like where we’re at as well. We’ve certainly showed that we can be at that same level, so it’s exciting. When this stuff comes out you start looking ahead to next year and get excited about it even when there’s still snow on the ground.”

Class 4A will shift from districts to seven groups organized for geography with the intent of proving greater competitive balance to scheduling. According to the IHSAA, the groups were organized by measuring a program’s last four years of results through the RPI and their last four years of playoff success. Teams were placed in one of six tiers; the top group consists of the seven strongest programs and on down. Tier 1 programs won’t be scheduled to face teams from the fifth or sixth tiers.

“Through this new model, we believe we’ve increased the opportunities for schools to play football against schools like their own,” IHSAA executive director Tom Keating said. “Programs experiencing participation challenges believe this is a way to encourage more students to play.”