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Local Sports

New football classification numbers could affect Newton

Newton High’s football program could drop back into Class 3A for the 2018 and 2019 football seasons. Then again, the Cardinals could still be in 4A.

“We don’t know for sure even with the new adjustments to the classifications announced on Wednesday,” Newton Athletic Director Scott Garvis said. “Class 4A goes from the present 48 schools to 42, but the BEDS haven’t been released yet.”

The Iowa High School Athletic Association’s Board of Control approved adjustments to classification sizes for the 2018 and 2019 football seasons at Wednesday’s monthly meeting in Boone. Classifications are based to school’s BED which includes students in 9th, 10th and 11th grades.

With the new numbers for the classifications don’t appear to have much affect on the other four Jasper County schools’ football programs. Prairie City-Monroe has been Class 2A while Colfax-Mingo and Lynnville-Sully are in Class A. Baxter played its first season of 8-man football this year.

Using recommendations made by the IHSAA’s Classification Committee last month, the Board of Control unanimously agreed to decrease the current number of schools in Classes 4A, 3A, 2A, and 1A, and raise the enrollment cap for 8-man programs.

The top 42 schools according to the 2017-18 BEDS document will be in 4A, the next 54 schools in 3A, the next 54 schools in 2A, the next 54 schools in 1A, and the remainder of 11-man schools in A. The changes will be implemented during the 2018-19 redistricting cycle.

In the 2016-17 cycle, 4A had 48 schools and the planned sizes of 3A, 2A, and 1A included 56 schools

Garvis said the enrollment differences in the 4A schools from No. 48 to No. 42 are tight. He said Newton has had an enrollment increase this year whether it was enough compared to other schools to keep Newton in 4A remains to be seen.

“I anticipate we’ll drop to Class 3A, but either way, we will be ready to play football at which ever level we land in,” Garvis said.

The enrollment cap for schools to participate in 8-Man has been raised from 115 to 120 students, per the 2017-18 BEDS listing. There is still no minimum enrollment requirement for 11-man football.

“The classification committee comes in every other year and encompasses superintendents, principals and athletic directors from public and non-public schools along with schools with broad ranging enrollments. Their thoughtfulness and careful examination of the landscape of football in the state of Iowa lead to these recommendations,” said Todd Tharp, assistant director and football administrator for the IHSAA.

These recommendations were made and approved with six priorities in mind, meant to benefit IHSAA football classifications for the next two years and in the future.

1. Improve competitive balance. The potential for more non-district games allows schools to schedule similarly competitive opponents.

2. Revitalize rivalry games. An opportunity to play more non-class and non-district games means traditional rivalries between schools and communities may stay on the schedule.

3. Reduce non-district travel. Close proximity can increase attendance for home teams and limit travel expenses for road teams and their fans.

4. Potentially increase participation at all levels. More selective schedules may help slow the flow of underclassmen taking the field early in district contests, which can offer a safety and motivational benefit.

5. Trim enrollment gap in Class 4A. Addresses the trend of the state’s largest schools continuing to grow at faster rates than other districts.

6. Maintain six classes for at least two more years. Changes were made to the classification structure, but five 11-player classes and one 8-player class will exist for another redistricting cycle.

“These changes in classifications will allow schools to continue to evaluate their respective football programs and try and define what needs best fit their program,” Tharp said. “For some programs, the aspect of potentially playing more non-district opponents may lead to creating a more balanced schedule for them, potentially increasing student participation as schools, while others may attempt to challenge themselves with more competitive non-district games.”

The determination of districts per class and postseason qualifying methodology was not made by the Board or the Committee. The decision will be made in conjunction with the Iowa Football Coaches Association executive board, the Iowa High School Athletic Directors Association, and the IHSAA, with final recommendations coming from the football advisory committee after district football meetings are held.

“There will be opportunities to evaluate the number of districts and teams in a district,” Tharp said. “Obviously, with 54 teams in Classes 3A, 2A, and 1A, six-team districts will provide for a re-evaluation of the qualifying system and looking at other analytics to determine the qualification system.”

Also affected by the change to the 8-man enrollment cap: exceptions for schools attempting to classify for 8-man football. The Board previously approved two exceptions for schools whose enrollments rose above 115 through the BEDS document.

Only Exception No. 1 was kept through voting Wednesday, with the Classification Committee recommending its retention due to the cost of configuring football fields for the 8-Player game. The first exception, as written: “An 8-Player football school whose current enrollment is 115 or less, and whose enrollment increases above 115 following the 2017 season, will be allowed 8-Player football status for an additional 2 years.”

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