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Column

Football coaches want more teams

The high school football season ended this past weekend at the UNI-Dome. But this winter is when the Iowa High School Athletic Association decides new districts and makes its decisions on the postseason.

The Iowa Football Coaches Association has announced recently a handful of proposals have been sent to the state with the efforts to get more playoff teams in each class.

All proposals are based on 24 playoff teams in Class 4A and 32 teams in the other five classes.

“I am a 32-team guy,” Baxter football coach Rob Luther said. “Every other sport gives their athletes a shot at the postseason. With 16 teams, we knew this past year after Week 6 that we were out. It’s hard for high school kids to stay motivated knowing that.”

Specifics on each proposal were not released to me, but one of them involves a nine-game schedule with everyone starting on Week 0 and the postseason beginning on this year’s Week 9.

Another proposal features an eight-game schedule with the playoffs starting on this year’s Week 9.

There’s also a proposal that features a full nine-game season with playoff games being played on Thursday-Wednesday-Tuesday before the semifinals.

“I am all about 32 teams,” Colfax-Mingo coach Jeff Lietz said. “It’s best for participation. It gives kids more opportunities to play in the playoffs.”

According to Luther, 74 percent of the 3A coaches were in favor of a 32-team playoff format, while 78 percent of 2A coaches, 75 percent of 1A coaches, 72 percent of A coaches and 66 percent of 8-man coaches are in favor of it.

“I am happy with the way it is right now at 16 teams, but we have also consistently qualified,” PCM coach Greg Bonnett said. “I get where other schools would want to see more. I think 32 might be a little diluted, but I am for 24. If they do make a change we need a full week of preparation between games like always.”

Six states near Iowa in the Midwest all have more than 16 qualifiers. And all seven states play postseason games at least until Nov. 20.

Kansas plays its final playoff game on Nov. 27 and has 32 qualifiers. Illinois plays through Nov. 24 and takes 32 teams. Wisconsin also has 32 playoff teams and plays through Nov. 22.

“I appreciate the state trying to make sure there is integrity for the playoffs,” Lynnville-Sully coach Mike Parkinson said. “But I think the four teams from each district making the playoffs is good for those teams on the edge which are looking for a way to boost their program.”

Nebraska has some classes with 16 qualifiers and others have 32. Its final playoff games are on Nov. 20. Missouri’s postseason teams range from 24 to 64 and its final games are played on Dec. 1.

“Timeline wise, we do not need to be done the week before Thanksgiving and there are many other states that are not done by then either,” Bonnett said. “I guarantee you the UNI-Dome will make it work.”

Another reason most coaches want a playoff expansion is to make sure deserving teams don’t get left out.

This year, 8-1 Sigourney-Keota did not make the playoffs in 1A and two 5-4 teams in that class did. Two teams in 8-man did not make the postseason this season. In 2A, Nevada was 7-2 and did not make the postseason.

One can argue if 6-3 teams deserve to be in the playoffs but several programs who won six games also were left out.

Lietz and Luther would like to see bigger districts and less non-district games.

“Playing four non-district games is silly,” Lietz said. “I like the nine-game season, and I don’t care if we have playoff games past Thanksgiving. There is no reason we can’t go past that date.”

Bonnett would not be a fan of losing the final game of the regular season to make room for the playoffs. Luther said he doesn’t want to lose that game but the coaches might have to give something to get what they want in return.

“I don’t think anybody really wants to lose a football gate for your athletic budget, charge your fans way more, and give the money to the IHSAA, which is what would be happening,” Bonnett said.

The IFCA pushed for 32 teams two years ago but the IHSAA denied that proposal.

“I hope the state is open to our suggestion, I hope it doesn’t fall on deaf ears,” Parkinson said. “The state has said they are putting safety over money. We may have to meet in the middle in getting to the end goal.”

Contact Troy Hyde at thyde@newtondaily news.com

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