Prep Football

IHSA schools rescind district football format

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Dec. 18, 2019 1:20 am

QUINCY -- Although disappointed by the outcome of the Illinois High School Association bylaw amendment vote, specifically the rescinding of the district football scheduling format, no one within the Quincy Notre Dame athletic department stopped to have a pity party.

There was immediate work to be done.

After the vote totals were announced Tuesday morning, the QND administration began contacting potential opponents to help fill the 2021 schedule and beyond. The district format was scheduled to begin in 2021.

"We're already on it," QND coach Jack Cornell said. "We're talking to teams from around this area, trying to get closer games than what we have on the schedule already, (QND athletic director Bill) Connell has gone into full-blown AD mode at this point."

A proposal to rescind the district format was one of 10 bylaw amendments passed by a vote of IHSA member schools. Of the 812 member schools, 702 participated in the voting. At 86.5 percent, it's the highest participation percentage in the past 10 years.

The final vote on rescinding football districts was 374-241, with 87 schools offering no opinion.

"For us, it makes the most sense to keep it the way it is," said Quincy High School coach Rick Little, who was one of several coaches within the Western Big Six Conference against the district format. "We have some stability in a really good conference and I'd hate to see that go by the wayside."

The district format, which was approved by a 324-307 vote in December 2018, put all scheduling in the hands of the IHSA. It called for teams within each class to be divided into eight- or nine-team districts with one or two open dates to allow schools to continue scheduling rivalry games. It would have ended all conference affiliations.

"I obviously like the Western Big Six and what it brings," Little said.

The IHSA was to schedule the district games on a two-year home-and-home rotation, and the top four teams in each district were to advance to the playoffs.

However, the district format did not address scheduling for the underclass teams.

"My biggest concern with the district possibility was a lot of the unknowns," Little said. "I felt like we were voting on whether we were going to build a house but we didn't know how many bedrooms or if we were going to have a garage or anything like that. It was concerning to me, and I say specifically looking at our lower levels.

"Being where we're located, seeing who we could potentially play and the development of our program were things I was concerned about."

At QND, the district format alleviated most scheduling concerns. Playing in a conference with only three teams, the Raiders are forced to find seven non-conference opponents to fill the schedule. Last fall, while going 9-4 and reaching the Class 3A state semifinals, the Raiders played teams in four different classifications -- as large as Class 7A and as small as Class 2A.

The schedule featured five playoff teams.

"We're disappointed," Cornell said. "We thought the IHSA was going to give us one thing and then voted to do another. Obviously, we have a lot more work to do now that we didn't think we'd have to do, but it is what it is."

Much like its West Central Conference counterparts -- Macomb and West Hancock -- Quincy Notre Dame envisioned a friendlier, less travel-heavy schedule.

"It helped us create a better schedule, more regionally based," Cornell said. "So we're certainly disappointed."

Everyone expects it to continue to be a hot-button topic, which could lead to a proposal to bring back the district format on next year's ballot.

"I would like to see the state go with a district format, and there are many other people who would as well," Cornell said. "And there are just as many who don't. So who knows what will happen."