The Iowa High School Athletic Association Board of Control passed three minor changes Wednesday that are coming to its football playoff qualifying system this fall.
The Ratings Percentage Index — instituted last year to determine at-large bids and seeding — itself isn’t changing, only tweaks in how it’s used, based on recommendations from the IHSAA’s football advisory committee.
“The first year of football RPI was an excellent learning experience,” IHSAA executive director Alan Beste said in a release. “We are confident the recommendations from the advisory committee and our staff will help address concerns coming out of 2018.”
Here’s a look at what’s changing.
Only one automatic bid will be given to districts with ties for first place.
Last year in districts with three-way ties for the title, all three teams received automatic bids. Now, the team ranked highest in the RPI will qualify automatically and the other two teams will fall into the at-large process.
Head-to-head will still be used to determine one champion in districts with two-way ties.
The new rule would have had an impact in Class 2A last season.
Benton Community, Union Community and West Marshall tied for the District 7 championship at 4-1. Benton, ranked No. 4 in the RPI, would have received an automatic bid. No. 8 West Marshall would be safe as an at-large team, but Union, ranked No. 15 wouldn’t have made the cut. Instead, No. 12 Clear Lake would have jumped into the playoffs. The Lions were 7-2 and finished second in District 3, behind Crestwood.
The other two three-way ties last year came in 8-Player, where automatic spots would have went to No. 5 Don Bosco in District 2 and No. 4 Turkey Valley in District 3. Rockford, Northwood-Kensett, Central City and Midland all would have qualified as at-large teams.
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Head-to-head overrides RPI for the final at-large spot if the teams in question are side by side in the RPI standings.
This rule wouldn’t have come into play last season, but as an example: If a team ranked No. 16 was slotted as the final at-large team in the playoffs, but lost to the team ranked No. 17 at some point in the regular season, No. 17 would take the last playoff spot instead.
Head-to-head overrides RPI in seeding if the teams in question are side by side in the RPI standings.
One scenario that received a lot of attention last year was the top of the Class 3A RPI standings. Sergeant Bluff-Luton was ranked No. 1 and Lewis Central was No. 2 despite beating the Warriors 42-14 in Week 1. Once the semifinals arrived, Lewis Central was forced to play No. 3 Cedar Rapids Xavier, a fellow undefeated team, while SB-L took on Western Dubuque. If this rule was in place, Lewis Central would have taken the top seed and, if it played out similarly, met Western Dubuque in the semifinals and not have had to face Xavier until the title game.
Other spots where this rule would have mattered: No. 5 Bettendorf beat No. 4 Iowa City West and No. 7 West Des Moines Dowling beat No. 6 Waukee in Class 4A, No. 4 Avoca AHSTW beat No. 3 Sloan Westwood in Class A and No. 13 Midland beat No. 12 Central City in 8-Player.