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Iowa high school football shifting with new Eastern Iowa Class 4A developments

Newton is staying in Class 3A football — for now

Published: Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013 12:44 p.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013 8:48 a.m. CDT

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NEWTON — Newton Senior High football will be Class 3A for two more years. That is a certainty. After that, Iowa’s high school football district play is not so certain.

Newton has played Class 3A football since 2009. There was concern that Newton would be bumped back up to Class 4A when district assignments are made in 2014.

“If we had to move up, it wouldn’t be until the next cycle according to an email I received from the IHSAA,” said Scott Garvis, Newton athletic direction. Garvis received the email from the Iowa High School Athletic Association last week.

It’s true how a little ripple can cause a tidal wave. Iowa Class 4A football is undergoing another ripple this year.

Not going the way of the lower classifications in voting to play district football instead of conference, Class 4A schools stayed the course from 1992 until two years ago. According to IHSAA Executive Directior Rick Wulkow, the 4A schools in the western part of the state came to the IHSAA two years ago because the schools were having scheduling problems.

“When we went to the district format, each classification voted. Class 4A voted to stay with conference play.The 4A west schools came to us for scheduling options,” Wulkow said. “We told them if the IHSAA was going to be involved they’d have to go to district format, we’d divide the schools — using several criteria — for balance and strength of schedule to benefit all schools.”

Wulkow said the 4A eastern schools stayed with conference play. Those were the Mississippi Valley Conference and the Mississippi Athletic Conference. He said the two conferences had strong traditions and had no scheduling problems.

Well, the MAC an MVC have problems now. Davenport Assumption, Cedar Rapids Xavier and Dubuque Wahlert announced they all wanted to play football within their actual enrollment class. 

“The non-public schools want to play based on enrollment — 3A. Most of it was because of declining school enrollments and with Wahlert it had to do with numbers out for football,” Wulkow said. “Their conferences granted them that. They’d stay in conference for all other sports. Nothing is formally drawn up. We won’t know until after the first of the year what the East 4A is going to do.”

With all that said — how does this ripple affect Newton?

“It used to be that the top 48 schools in enrollment were Class 4A. If they went back to the top 48, we’d be in 4A again, which would not be a good situation for Newton,” said Ed Ergenbright, Newton head football coach. “Right now, we’re sitting at No. 47 on the enrollment list.”

Ergenbright said he and Garvis talked about the situation. The IHSAA policy at this time, with the exception of those two conferences, schools over 700 in enrollment in grades 9, 10 and 11 will play Class 4A football. Newton is at 622, which puts it in the Class 3A football ranks.

The problem is with a balanced number of 4A schools from each side of the state. With Assumption, Wahlert and Xavier’s declaration to play at 3A and Council Bluffs Lewis Central moving from 3A to 4A, Wulkow said there are 24 schools in the western half of the state and 21 in the eastern half for Class 4A football.

In the email received by Garvis, the IHSAA said “For the next two years, the IHSAA will not be placing the next highest enrollment schools into Class 4A football to make 48 schools.  We will stay at below 48 and still have 32 qualifiers in Class 4A.”

“So, for the next two years, Newton will stay at 3A,” Ergenbright said. “Will we be in the top 48 in enrollment two years from now? We don’t know. We’ll just have to see how this all works out down the road.”

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