IHSA member schools voted to reverse course Tuesday, rejecting the move to a district system for high school football just a year after the district proposal first passed.
While reaction rolled in from coaches and administrators, Friday Night Drive editors Eddie Carifio and Kyle Nabors sat down to discuss their feelings on Tuesday's reversal.
Carifio: Well, it happened.
The IHSA member schools on Tuesday voted to snuff out the district system before it even started by a 374-241 margin, reversing a vote that passed by just 17 votes a year ago.
Apparently, more than enough schools are not concerned with the scheduling issues that plague multiple schools or the constant conference turbulence and uncertainty practically mandated by the current system's bloodlust for searching for five wins. The status quo wins out.
If it's not clear, I was in favor of the districting system. Kyle, I know you were against it. In between sips of your celebratory champagne, I would love to know if you think this has been put to rest, or if you suspect to see something come up in the next round of proposals, such as an expanded playoff.
Nabors: Well, celebratory champagne is the best champagne, but I assumed this was coming shortly after the proposal passed last year. That sentiment only grew after the negative reaction the IHSA's initial district mock received this spring.
Frankly, I'm still a bit shocked the district proposal passed in the first place given the lack of details. The current system isn't without flaws, but it's never a bright idea to pass legislation and say, "We'll figure out the details after."
This issue definitely is not settled. There are several ideas I think schools and the IHSA should pursue.
Carifio: Obviously, I'm a fan of the IHSA selecting the playoffs in whatever form that chooses, most simply the district system. But it's clear now that's not going to happen – there was a very detailed system proposed by Sycamore athletic director Chauncey Carrick a few years ago, kind of punching a hole in the whole "it's about the details" argument. People were going to oppose this system no matter what. The flexibility built into this one was the excuse this time around.
At first glance, when the 48-team-per class playoff was proposed, I laughed it off as a half measure. But after talking with Carrick, obviously always a staunch defender of the district system, he said he thinks the expanded playoff is the next best, or perhaps more likely, system to fix the current system's ills.
I certainly have many, many questions about an expanded playoff. But to hear someone like Carrick talk it up, it has me wondering if it is the way this is going to play out.
Nabors: I'm not entirely opposed to playoff expansion, but I do see a couple of issues.
No. 1: It would curb the issue of conference jumping, but I don't think it eliminates the problem. There would likely still be programs playing the numbers game to get into the postseason.
No. 2: Do we want three-win teams in the playoff field? Even with the top teams receiving byes, there would be some incredibly lopsided football games in the opening round. Plus, in my opinion, it kind of takes away what makes Friday nights special each fall.
The best solution, I believe, is for the IHSA membership to at least partially take away schools and conferences unlimited power on forming and altering conferences.
Let's make it a 24-person panel, serving two-year terms, that review and approve conference changes.
Carifio: I think that panel would have problems passing as well. At first glance, I doubt schools would want to give their autonomy over to a neutral (or as neutral as things could possible get) body.
And as you point out, there are definite problems with an expanded playoff. While we don't want the perfect to be the enemy of the good, we don't want to settle for a meh, or even worse, idea.
Which brings us back to districts. If the lack of details was really the sticking point – and again I'm dubious to that claim – then let's tag in a previous plan. Heck, let's go with the system that passed last year, but let's add in a 24-person oversight panel to tweak things every two years and handle the concerns that have been raised. This is the way.
Nabors: Well, we at least we agree on one point. There definitely needs to be better oversight in some form.