Iowa high school football playoff qualifying system changed for 2018 season

IHSAA keeps playoff field at 16 teams, allows out-of-state competition

West Liberty's Seth Feldman tries to get around Mount Vernon's Tyler Elliott during a game at West Liberty last season. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
West Liberty's Seth Feldman tries to get around Mount Vernon's Tyler Elliott during a game at West Liberty last season. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

BOONE — The playoff fields will remain the same but qualifying will change, starting in the 2018 prep football season.

The Iowa High School Athletic Association Board of Control approved a 16-team playoff field for each class, the return of out-of-state games and a new qualifying system after a monthly meeting Wednesday, according to a news release.

The IHSAA did not choose the Iowa Football Coaches Association recommendation for a nine-game regular season and 32-team postseason field for the five smallest classes and 24 in Class 4A.

“Player safety is the number one priority,” IHSAA executive director Alan Beste said in the release, “and we are also committed to playing early round postseason games on Friday nights. Keeping 16 qualifiers per class allows for maximum recovery time between games and maintains high school’s Friday night tradition.”

In previous seasons, non-district games did not have an impact on playoff qualifying. All games will factor into playoff berths.

The new qualifying format will include automatic berths to district champions and teams that tie for a district title. The remaining qualifiers will be determined by a Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) formula. It will be based on winning percentage, opponents’ winning percentage and the winning percentage of the opponents of an opposing team.

The 17-point tiebreaker rule will no longer be used as well.

The full news release from the IHSAA is below:

BOONE, Iowa — At its monthly meeting on January 24, the Iowa High School Athletic Association’s Board of Control approved changes to the sport’s playoff qualifying system, and to allow out-of-state contests starting in the 2018 season. Classifications and a new two-year district format were also approved at Wednesday’s meeting. “Player safety is the number one priority,” IHSAA executive director Alan Beste said, “and we are also committed to playing early round postseason games on Friday nights. Keeping 16 qualifiers per class allows for maximum recovery time between games and maintains high school’s Friday night tradition.” The number of regular season games and playoff teams per class will remain unchanged for 2018 and 2019. Recommendations from the Iowa Football Coaches Association and playoff football advisory committee were to expand the postseason field to 32 teams in Classes 3A, 2A, 1A, A, and 8-Player, and 24 teams in Class 4A after a nine-game regular season. However, the Board of Control unanimously opted to maintain the current schedule with nine regular season games and 16 postseason qualifiers per class, which will allow the season to end before a holiday break, and avoid further overlap with winter seasons. Teams will continue to have nine home games and nine away games over the two-year district cycle. The IHSAA’s football playoffs featured 32 qualifiers per class from 2008 until 2015. It returned to its prior format of 16 postseason squads in its six classifications in 2016. The Board of Control followed other provisional recommendations made in last month’s advisory committee meeting in voting to distribute football districts and alter the 16-team qualifying structure.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

District Breakdown Based on classification changes made in October, the Board discussed and voted to approve football districts that will allow all classes to add non-district contests and reduce district travel. Classification and district assignments will be finalized and released on Thursday, January 25. The new format for 2018-19 is as follows … Class 4A: 42 teams, 7 districts, 6 teams per district; 4 non-district games per team. Class 3A, 2A, 1A: 54 teams, 9 districts, 6 teams per district; 4 non-district games per team. Class A: 62 teams, 8 districts with 6 teams, and 2 districts with 7 teams; 4 non-district games per team in 6-team districts and 3 non-district games per team in 7-team districts. 8-Player: 65 teams, 7 districts with 8 teams and 1 district with 9 teams; 2 non-district games per team in 8-team districts and 1 non-district game per team in 9-team district (Week 0 possible).

Postseason Qualifying System A provisional recommendation approved by the Board changes how the 16 teams in each class will qualify for their playoffs starting in 2018. The new format for 2018-19 is as follows ...

1. Only the district champion or teams tying for a district championship receive automatic qualification.

2. For the first time since the debut of district football, all nine games will count toward postseason qualification.

3. The 17-point district tiebreaker will be eliminated and not factor into qualification.

4. Remaining at-large qualifiers will be determined by a Ratings Percentage Index formula. The RPI will use three criteria to determine postseason qualification.

a. Team’s overall win-loss percentage (accounting for 37.5% of the index) b. Team’s opponent’s win-loss percentage (37.5%) c. Team’s opponent’s win-loss percentage (25%) 5. Classification differences between non-district opponents do not affect RPI. The NCAA uses RPI in several men’s and women’s sports. The Colorado High School Activities Association debuted a similar RPI system in 2016. “Our goal is to have the best 16 teams in each class qualify for the playoffs,” Beste said. “We believe we get closer to that goal by having only district champions as automatic qualifiers, and the remainder of qualifiers determined by their success and the success of their opponents and other successful teams.”

Out-Of-State Competition The Board of Control approved an additional recommendation allowing varsity football teams to play games against nearby opponents in border states — Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wisconsin — and Kansas. “We will protect Iowa teams first, ensuring they have games each week,” Beste said. “However, we do have schools on our borders and other Iowa schools expressing interest in traveling for out-of-state competition. Accommodating those requests for competitive and geographical purposes is a reasonable thing to do.” Iowa varsity squads last played out-of-state opponents in non-district games in 2011.

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

CONTINUE READING

MORE Prep Football ARTICLES TO READ NEXT ...

DES MOINES - The correlation between wrestling and football is well known.The sports are bridged by the skills that lead to success in both. College football coaches have even expressed their preference to recruit players with wre ...

IOWA CITY - It was a longer process than he expected, but Evan Flitz has finally found a college home. He's headed west. Way west. The all-state quarterback from Iowa City West announced Sunday night that he has committed to pla ...

Give us feedback

Have you found an error or omission in our reporting? Tell us here.

Do you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.