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Enough is enough: It's time to flag the IHSAA

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sometimes I get a little too wrapped up in a game.

That might surprise some of you, considering how calm I manage to remain during intense high school athletic events.

But catch me watching an Iowa football game on a Saturday afternoon or a Packers game on Sunday and you will witness an entirely different person. I am a passionate sports fan and I have absolutely no problem telling coaches what plays to call, yelling at receivers for dropping the perfect pass or letting the officials know they made the wrong call. My TV doesn't have ears, so I do this all for the amusement of my cat.

That said, I have often told those watching with me (humans, not the cat) about my need for flags. Not just the yellow penalty flags the officials toss out. I want a bright red challenge flag too. But the flag I believe I need the most when watching sports would be named after a popular card game about calling others' bluffs.

Yes, I need a "No way is that even close to being right" flag. I haven't decided its color yet, but I have decided it is very necessary.

Flags may not be thrown during basketball games -- we call fouls instead -- but I believe it's high time someone flag the Iowa High School Athletic Association for making what I believe are terrible calls in regards to high school basketball.

If you missed this little tidbit in a blog I posted online before Christmas, I will take the time to let you in on a little change the IHSAA put into action for the current basketball season.

The number of teams in the two smallest classes changed. While Class 4A remained a 48-team class and 3A stayed with its 64 teams, Class 2A sent 31 teams down to the 1A ranks, changing from a 128-team class to a 97-team class. In turn, Class 1A became a mega-class with 164 boys basketball teams.

'What's the big deal?' you may wonder. The big deal is that we now have 164 basketball teams vying for eight spots in the state tournament.

Let's pretend that each of those 164 teams is equal when the first round of the district playoffs begins, which is what I believe the IHSAA is trying to do by guaranteeing every team at least one playoff game.

Each team in Class 1A has a 4.8 percent chance of getting to state based purely on math. Now you really have to throw in talent, depth, coaching and seeding when you get down to figuring out who has the best chance of getting to state, but that's really not my point.

The point is, how is it fair that of the 48 schools in Class 4A, eight get to go to state? That's 16.7 percent of the schools in that class. And in all likelihood, to get to state, a 4A school would have to win three games. Even a team with three wins on the season could get hot at the right time and upset a state-rated team.

What should be done about these dismal chances? Ideas to better the high school postseason have been suggested by members of the Daily Sentinel sports staff multiple times over the past three years, but a little reinforcement never hurt anyone.

One suggestion is adding a fifth class for basketball, similar to the extra classes created for football. The Iowa High School Girls Athletic Union has chosen to add a fifth class beginning with softball this summer, but the addition of that class will do little to benefit the small schools. Instead of giving the 3A and 4A schools even more chances to send teams to state by creating a 5A superclass of the state's biggest schools, a Class A should be created by combining all the schools in Class 1A and 2A and dividing those schools into three equal groups.

If a fifth class is not added, the state tournament fields for 1A and 2A should be expanded. Qualify the top eight teams in 3A and 4A but open the field to 12 teams in 2A and 16 teams in 1A. The chances will still be better for a 4A school to advance to state, but the chances for 1A teams improve from 4.8 percent to 9.7 percent.

The argument may come into play that because of the current economy, many of the small schools will begin various sharing agreements over the next few years. That may be true. Many Class 1A high schools may be forced to share athletic programs with a neighboring school district for the simple case of increasing their chances to remain competitive in the postseason.

Creating a fifth class or expanding the tournament field will allow more 1A schools to maintain their independent identities rather than risking a loss of school spirit by combining with a rival school.

Pairings have yet to be released, but we do know which teams will play in each district for Class 1A, where six Plymouth County schools fall into Districts 3 and 4. The winners of each 10-team district will face off in a substate game where the winner goes to state and the loser goes home. So of the six Class 1A schools in Plymouth County, only one could go to state this year. And that is only if said Plymouth County team can knock off a powerhouse team like Boyden-Hull (in District 4), currently ranked fourth in 1A.

Anything can happen, but a 1-in-20 chance is not fair to athletes that have dreamed for years of finally playing at the state tournament.

Every young person is told at least once by a parent, teacher or mentor that 'Life's not fair.'

Unfortunately that is the truth.

Now it's time to throw the flag.

Bethany Kroeze is the Sports Editor for the Daily Sentinel and will be writing her new column, Sporty Banter, each Friday. Bethany can be reached at 712-546-7031 ext. 20 or at bkroeze@lemarssentinel.com. Follow Bethany on Twitter @LeMarsDSsports.


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Your small-school bias is showing. You are looking at it from a 'number of schools' perspective. Why not look at it from a 'number of boys' perspective? Add up the total number of boys that go to 4A schools and now add up the number of boys that go to 1A schools. Let's assume 12 players per team and 8 teams at state. That is 96 total boys that get to participate at state in a given class. Divide 96 into the total number of boys that attend 4A and 1A schools. Clearly, if you are a boy attending a 1A school, you have a much better chance of playing at state than a boy that attends a 4A school.

Please name one state that doesn't have more schools in the lowest class than the largest class. There isn't any and it's because of the recognition that there are simply more boys in the larger classes.

-- Posted by EddieJ on Fri, Jan 13, 2012, at 11:49 AM

Too bad that people do not get this upset when class rooms are changed. Yea I know sports is everything.

-- Posted by giblem on Sun, Jan 15, 2012, at 7:29 AM

The reason you ought to look at this from a school perspective rather than a player perspective is because going to state is about more than just the players. A state tournament appearance galvanizes the entire community, and that is even more true in smaller towns. It's not only the players that participate. It's also cheerleaders, band members, the rest of the student body, alumni and parents.

While it might be true that a kid at a Class 1A school would statistically have a better chance of seeing the court than at a Class 4A school (if that's even true - feel free to crunch the numbers if you have time), that is only relevant if that particular 1A school makes it to state.

It really is an issue of the number of communities represented, not the number of players. It's pretty clear that a far smaller percentage of communities are represented at the 1A level than at the 4A level. And for a state comprised primarily of small, agricultural towns, that's a shame.

-- Posted by jgblog on Sun, Jan 15, 2012, at 11:46 PM

Why do people always have to bring other factors into 'play' with their coments? I believe the article was about sport teams, not classrooms. Leave your comment about classrooms to an article that deals with that.

-- Posted by b4usayit on Mon, Jan 16, 2012, at 8:50 AM


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By Bethany Kroeze
Sporty Banter