Football districts, playoff changes announced
BOONE — The Iowa High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) released its final adjustments to the football districts and playoff qualifying system on Wednesday, January 24, with the placement of schools into districts being released on Thursday, January 25.
The IHSAA maintained the current number of playoff teams for each class at 16, despite recommendations from the Iowa Football Coaches Association and playoff football advisory committee to expand the postseason field. The IHSAA had 32 qualifiers per class from 2008 to 2015 before returning to 16 teams in the last district cycle in 2016.
Other changes include a return to allowing out-of-state contests for the first time since 2011 and the change to a Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) formula for determining at-large playoff qualifiers.
District champions or those tying for a district title will receive automatic bids to the playoffs. The final number of playoff teams will be selected based on a team’s final RPI number from which all of a team’s games, including non-district contests, will factor into the calculation. The RPI uses three criteria in its formula: team’s overall win percentage accounting for 37.5 percent of index, opponents’ combined win percentage accounting for another 37.5 percent and a team’s opponent’s opponent’s win percentage accounting for the final 25 percent of the formula.
RPI is used in several sports by the NCAA and the system used by the IHSAA is based off a similar RPI system debuted by the Colorado High School Activities Association in 2016.
“Our goal is to have the best 16 teams in each class qualify for the playoffs,” IHSAA Executive Director Alan Beste said in a press release regarding the changes. “We believe we get closer to that goal by having only district champions as automatic qualifiers, and the remainder of qualifiers determined by their success and the success of their opponents and other successful teams.”
The new classification will see 62 teams in Class A with eight districts fielding six teams and the final two holding seven teams. Based on the number of teams in the district, schools will play either three or four non-district games.
8-player football has seven districts with eight teams and a final district with nine teams. Most 8-player teams will play only two non-district games.
Classes 3A down to 1A will have nine districts with six teams per district with four non-district dates allotted for teams.
Of Plymouth County teams, the only change in classification sees Hinton drop from 1A down to A. They will be joined by fellow county schools Akron-Westfield, Gehlen Catholic and MMCRU in District 1. The all-War Eagle district will also feature Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn and South O’Brien. The Jays and Westerners were previously in Class A District 1 while the Royals, Hawks and Wolverines were all in Class A District 2 last cycle.
8-player District 1 sees minimal changes from last cycle. Graettinger-Terril/Ruthven-Ayrshire moves up to 11-man football as the only loss from the district. Ar-We-Va and River Valley from the previous District 8 will join the remaining District 1 members which include both Remsen St. Mary’s and Kingsley-Pierson.
The new changes will be in effect for both the 2018 and 2019 football seasons before the next two-year cycle of redistricting will take effect.