Prep Football

Iowa high school football coaches endorse an 8-class format for 2021

Among the wishes, a much smaller number of teams in the big class, and two classes of 8-Player

Waukon's Ethan O'Neill (20) and Pat Hennessy (8) admire their state champion trophy with teammates after winning the Cla
Waukon's Ethan O'Neill (20) and Pat Hennessy (8) admire their state champion trophy with teammates after winning the Class 2A state championship final at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

Eight classes? That’s the proposal.

The Iowa Football Coaches Association sent a recommendation to the Iowa High School Athletic Association on Monday, requesting an eight-class format for the 2021 season.

“We got several options (from the IHSAA) last spring before COVID,” said IFCA president Don Anderson, coach at Iowa Falls-Alden. “As we looked at them, we felt the 6-2 model was best for most classes and meets the needs of the most programs.”

The 6-2 model would classify traditional 11-person programs into six classes and would split 8-player programs into two classes.

“We’re anticipating 8-player jumping to close to 80 schools next year,” Anderson said.

The other major switch would be the carving of the big-school classes, perhaps 24 teams in Class 5A and maybe another 24 in 4A.

In 2020, 40 schools made up 4A. But the gap between the haves (mostly the suburban schools in central Iowa) and the have-nots (many of the urban schools) has widened in the last 20 years.

“My personal opinion, I do think other factors should be considered instead of just enrollment,” said Gabe Bakker, coach at Clear Creek Amana and a member of the IFCA board of directors.

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In recent years, many coaches have felt that socioeconomic factors should be a determining factor in classification, and that free and reduced lunch should be part of the equation.

“We’re trying to make the game better,” Anderson said. “We can’t make it so that everybody wins every Friday night, but we can do a better job than we are now.

“Membership wanted more teams in the playoffs, and if we reduce the size of classes, we can get a higher percentage of teams into the playoffs.”

Due to COVID-19, the IHSAA created a model in 2020 in which everybody was scheduled seven regular-season games, and everybody made the playoffs, a six-week series.

A total of 328 teams participated in Iowa high school football last season — 40 in 4A, 54 each in 3A, 2A and 1A, 59 in Class A and 67 in 8-Player.

IFCA officials and IHSAA board members will meet in a playoff advisory meeting Wednesday. Anderson said the football coaches have not recommended an eight- or nine-game regular season or a number of playoff participants per class.

“We want to get classification taken care of first,” Anderson said.

Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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