FORT DODGE — Traditionally, the consolation rounds of the state softball tournament have been played in front of friends and family only.
Mostly empty bleachers aren’t profitable, so Jean Berger is making a change, cutting 10 games from this year’s tournament schedule.
First-round losers will play one consolation game this year. Fifth- and seventh-place games are no longer on the schedule.
“It’s just a change we’re going to try this year,” said Berger, the executive director of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union. “Attendance has been sliding each of the last five years.”
A full bracket, both on the winners’ and losers’ side, has been a tournament tradition since the event came to the Rogers Sports Complex in 1970.
In the days of the 16-team, non-classified tournament (1974-93), all teams played four games. Once the sport became classified (three classes, 1994-2003; four classes, 2004-2011; five classes, 2012-present), all eight teams in each class played three games at state.
“I’ve had some coaches that are saying, ‘Why ruin a good thing?’” Berger said. “But if people aren’t coming, maybe it’s really not that good.”
The traditional format for state has consisted of quarterfinals on Monday and Tuesday, a full day of consolations (semifinals and fifth- and seventh-place games) Wednesday, semifinals Thursday and championships Friday.
Quarterfinals are Monday for 1A and 2A, plus half of the 3A first round. The other half is Tuesday, along with 4A and 5A quarterfinals.
Consolation games are Tuesday and Wednesday at the “back diamonds.” Semifinals are Wednesday, with 1A and 2A championships Thursday night and 3A, 4A and 5A title games Friday.
“One thing I really wanted to do was move all of the championship games to evening,” Berger said. “It’s cooler, and I think the communities will be more likely to come out and support their teams.
“To do that, we need to move the semifinals to Wednesday. That will give us championship-bracket games every day and keep the momentum going.”
Softball is the only girls’ sport in which consolation games are played, and Berger considers the new format a compromise.
“The state-tournament experience includes coming to Fort Dodge and staying with your teammates at Iowa Central (Community College),” Berger said. “I get that.”
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