The Iowa High School Athletic Association had to know it was possible.
The Baxter Bolts football team is off to a great start in their first season as an 8-man program. And the pleas to the state’s athletic association which makes all the decisions have begun.
Parents of the players, community members in Baxter and staff members at the school have made a push to try to get the decision changed.
The Bolts are 4-1 and their last two wins came against teams which were previously unbeaten and the scores weren’t close. Baxter would be a legitimate contender in the playoffs. They won’t get that chance though.
“It has been hard to look into the eyes of my team and those nine seniors and tell them that no matter how good you do or who you beat, you will not have the chance to experience playing in an Iowa high school playoff game,” Baxter football coach and high school principal Rob Luther said in an email to the Newton Daily News.
Luther understands that the state likely won’t change their minds. And it would be extremely tough to do so now as the district seasons in all classes have begun around the state. But that doesn’t mean he won’t try.
Baxter decided to end its athletic agreement with Collins-Maxwell last school year. The school transitioned to the Bolts this fall, and both schools are now 8-man programs.
The split occurred in a year the state already had football districts set up. They will change those districts and schools can change classes this winter, but that still means the Baxter seniors won’t have a chance to play on the big stage that is the postseason.
“I understand that not much is going to be done about this, but I think the story needs to be told,” Luther said. “The 8-man football class was created to keep small Iowa towns viable. This class will be more in flux than all the other due to the ever changing climate of small rural schools in our state. Should we not do everything we can to support those towns and schools?”
Luther makes a good point. It should be the objective of the state’s athletic association to put the interest of the student-athletes on the forefront. Their decision did not do that.
This fall, Luther and Baxter Activities Director Lori Fricke told me that the IHSAA basically told them it couldn’t allow the Bolts or Collins-Maxwell to join two districts that only had seven teams in it.
It would have worked out perfectly. But the state told Baxter they didn’t want to force schools in those two districts to travel to Baxter to play games.
Instead, Baxter created its own independent schedule and is actually playing six of the seven teams in District 4. The Bolts even got three teams to come to Baxter. So, it doesn’t sound like there was an issue of “forcing teams to play Baxter or travel to Baxter.” The Bolts have proven that they are willing to make three-hour road trips just to play games.
I reached out to Todd Tharp at the IHSAA because I wanted to get their side of the story, but I have not yet gotten a response back.
It’s safe to say that this issue isn’t going away. And it will become a bigger deal with every Bolts win.
Contact Troy Hyde