The Iowa High School Athletic Association’s Board of Control on Wednesday ruled that the number of football playoff qualifiers per class will remain at 16 for at least the next two seasons.
Each Iowa program will continue to play a nine-game regular-season schedule for the next two-year cycle. The Iowa Football Coaches Association and the playoff football advisory committee had recommended expanding the postseason field to 24 teams in Class 4-A and 32 teams in the other five classes after a nine-game regular season.
“Player safety is the No. 1 priority,” IHSAA executive director Alan Beste said, “and we are also committed to playing early- round postseason games on Friday nights. Keeping 16 qualifiers per class allows for maximum recovery time between games and maintains high school’s Friday night tradition.”
The Iowa playoffs featured 32 qualifiers per class from 2008 until 2015 before returning to 16 qualifiers the last two years.
Triggered by classification changes made in October, the board voted to reduce the number of teams in many districts, thus allowing for more non-district games and the chance to schedule closer schools and reduce the overall travel burden.
Here is the new format for 2018-19:
» Class 4-A: 42 teams in seven districts. Six teams per district, so five district games and four non-district games.
» Class 3-A, 2-A and 1-A: 54 teams in nine districts. Six teams per district, so five district games and four non-district games.
» Class A: 62 teams in 10 districts, with eight of the districts having six teams and the other two with seven. That means four non-district games in the six-team districts and three non-district games in the seven-team districts.
» Eight-Man: 65 teams in eight districts, with seven of the districts having eight teams and the other district having nine. That means two non-district games in the eight-team districts and one in the other.
The board also approved a new qualifying system for the playoffs for the next two seasons. Here’s an outline:
» Only the district champion or teams tying for a district championship receive automation qualification.
» For the first time since the debut of district football, all nine games will count toward postseason qualification.
» The 17-point tiebreaker will be eliminated.
» Remaining at-large qualifiers will be determined by a Ratings Percentage Index formula. The RPI will use three criteria to determine postseason qualification: 1, team’s overall win-loss percentage (accounting for 37.5 percent); 2, team’s opponents’ win-loss percentage (also 37.5 percent); and 3, team’s opponents’ opponents’ win-loss percentage (25 percent).
» Classification differences between non-district opponents do not affect RPI.
“Our goal is to have the best 16 teams in each class qualify for the playoffs,” Beste said. “We believe we get closer to that goal by having only district champions as automatic qualifiers, and the remainder of the qualifiers determined by their success and the success of their opponents and other successful teams.”
Finally, the Board of Control approved a recommendation allowing varsity football teams to play opponents in states bordering Iowa.
“We will protect Iowa teams first, ensuring they have games each week,” Beste said. “However, we do have schools on our borders and other Iowa schools expressing interest in traveling for out-of-state competition. Accommodating those requests for competitive and geographical purposes is a reasonable thing to do.”