Simply put the IHSA state football playoff system is flawed.
I guess I can go back to 2001 when the IHSA decided to expand the state playoff classes from 6 to 8 classes, adding 64 additional teams to an already packed state playoff field.
Now before you go all off and tell me about the glory of all of those kids and communities who've had the experience of winning a state title since 2001 as wrong, just stop. What was done over 12 years ago is done and is now ancient history. I've seen those same kids and coaches and communities get handed those state title trophies and in all honesty winning a 7A or 5A or 12A state football title feels the same as any other state title.
I can live with 8 classes of state playoff football. (See all the years of therapy did work after all.)
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The one remaining thorn in my side and what I feel is the most glaring issue remains the "geographical balance" factor placed into the state football playoff system.
A quick explanation if I may?
When the IHSA comes up with the current state playoffs, they decided to put teams in brackets based off of merit (wins and playoff points) along with geography/location which is now also factored into that same state playoff bracket.
What we are left with is a state playoff system that now gets the two best teams from a specific area to a state final, as opposed to just getting the two best teams regardless of locale to a state championship game.
Location, location, location.
So how well has this geographical adjustment gone over? I've talked to many coaches over these many years from across this great state, and I've yet to find really any coach who likes this geographically balanced state playoff system.
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Go ahead and ask just about anyone if they enjoy playing against teams they have most likely played already this season. Or ask those same coaches if they like facing the same teams year in and year out in the state playoffs? Also let me be clear, this is just not a large school/Chicagoland only problem either.
Ask any of the Class 5A sized schools in the Springfield area if they like having to beat each other and eliminate each other from the state playoffs? Or if the St. Louis area schools like beating up each other? It's the same deal in the Rockford area as well. 1A or 2A sized schools? It's the same deal, play the same teams you see each and every year. Dust off last year's scouting report and go at it. Under the current state playoff system in too many cases we see conference teams playing each other in Week 9, then only having to only go back and play that same school six or seven days later. That kids should never, ever happen.
I say how about a change? Or at least consider a change?
How about taking the geography mumbo jumbo out of the equation? I say seed the state playoff field based strictly off of merit in a 1 thru 32 bracket. If #1 is located in Cairo and if seed #32 is located in say Chicago then so be it. Hop on a Yellow Rocket, pack a lunch and a snack and enjoy the travel and educational experience that you just don't get any more under the IHSA current playoff system.
Go play a team and a school you've never seen before. Sounds like fun doesn't it? Do you think kids will remember having to travel to play a team 10 miles from home or getting in a bus for three hours one way and playing a team they never heard of before?
The IHSA state football finals are heading to DeKalb and Husky Stadium starting this year and then will rotate the hosting duties with Memorial Stadium in Champaign every other year. I'm excited for the change. Change can be scary yet change can also be a good thing.
Don't be afraid of change IHSA.