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The Gazette KCRG
Posted September 7, 2011
District-football movement gaining steam in 4A

Cedar Rapids Xavier has proven it can compete in Class 4A football; the Saints won the 2006 state championship, after all. But if the IHSAA brings district football to 4A, it probably means to a move to 3A for Xavier. (Liz Martin/SourceMedia Group News)

CEDAR RAPIDS — District football could be coming to Class 4A, and it could be happening soon.

Maybe next fall.

The Iowa High School Athletic Association sent out surveys last month to its 47 Class 4A football members, gauging their interest in pursuing a district system similar to what the other classes use.

“I’m not in favor of it, but I think it’s probably coming,” said Paul James, athletics director at Cedar Rapids Washington.

Surveys are due back in the IHSAA office by the end of next week.

District football was activated in 1992 for all classes except 4A. The metropolitan conferences have continued to maintain their football status.

But that may be changing, though it appears most ADs on the east side of the state favor status quo.

“I would say it’s safe to say that the west side of the state is more in favor of (a move to districts) than the east side,” James said. “Most of the people over here feel good about the way the (Mississippi Valley Conference) and the (Mississippi Athletic Conference) work.”

Iowa City West AD Marv Reiland agrees.

“We have an outstanding conference. We rotate our schedule every other year. We have a good thing going, and I’d hate to lose that,” Reiland said.

IHSAA assistant director Todd Tharp will attend the MVC athletics directors’ meeting to answer questions next Wednesday at Cedar Falls.

Tharp was attending a similar meeting from MAC officials today and could not be reached for comment.

Currently, 47 schools play 4A football. The “east” side consists of 24 schools — 14 in the MVC (two divisions of seven each) and 10 in the MAC. The “west” side features 23 schools — 18 in the Central Iowa Metro League (three divisions of six apiece) and five in the Missouri River Conference.

MVC teams face each divisional opponent and fill out their nine-game schedule with three cross-divisional games. Divisions change every two years.

Initially, Class 4A was intended to contain schools with certified enrollments at 700 or above (via the BEDS Documents, which count students in grades 9-11).

Forty-three schools have enrollments above 700, and that number likely will become 44 when Ankeny splits into two high schools. Ankeny Centennial High School will open in 2013.

All four of the current 4A-playing football schools with enrollments below 700 are on the east side: Cedar Rapids Xavier (578) and Dubuque Wahlert (423) of the MVC and North Scott (687) and Davenport Assumption (344) of the MAC.

Xavier won the 4A state football championship in 2006.

Mike Winker, Xavier AD, said he plans to huddle with football coach Duane Schulte and principal Tom Keating before he sends back his survey.

“We have a lot of questions,” Winker said. “There is a lot of information and a lot of scenarios out there.”

Winker indicated that if district football is passed and Xavier is classified as a 3A school, it would not opt to “play up” in 4A.

“We don’t petition to play up in any other sports,” he said.

If district football passes and Xavier moves to 3A, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Xavier will no longer play any of its 4A Metro rivals. They could schedule to play non-district games, presumably at the beginning of the season.

A 44-school 4A model could mean four districts with six schools and four with five schools. Schools in six-team districts would play four non-district games; schools in five-team districts would play five games out of district.

If the districts are run the same as the other classes, four teams from each district would qualify for the 32-team playoff field.

“We would probably lose some natural rivalries, especially if we were placed in a district away from the Cedar Rapids schools,” Reiland said. ”We would never lose (Iowa) City High. Even if we were not in the same district, we would request to play each other.

Once the survey results are compiled, discussion could take place as soon as the October meeting of the IHSAA Board of Control. If the movement has enough support, it’s possible it could be in place for the 2012 season, when the cards get reshuffled in the other classes.


If Class 4A football changes from a conference format to a district look, here’s one of 1,000 different scenarios for the 2012 season:

District 1 (5 teams): Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln, Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson, Sioux City East, Sioux City North, Sioux City West.

District 2 (5 teams): Johnston, Urbandale, Waukee, West Des Moines Dowling, West Des Moines Valley.

District 3 (5 teams in ’12, 6 teams in ’13): Ames, Ankeny, Des Moines Hoover, Des Moines North, Marshalltown, Ankeny Centennial in 2013.

District 4 (6 teams): Des Moines East, Des Moines Lincoln, Des Moines Roosevelt, Indianola, Ottumwa, Southeast Polk.

District 5 (5 teams): Cedar Falls, Fort Dodge, Mason City, Waterloo East, Waterloo West.

District 6 (5 teams): Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Cedar Rapids Prairie, Cedar Rapids Washington, Linn-Mar.

District 7 (6 teams): Bettendorf, Clinton, Davenport North, Dubuque Hempstead, Dubuque Senior, Pleasant Valley.

District 8 (6 teams): Burlington, Davenport Central, Davenport West, Iowa City High, Iowa City West, Muscatine.


6 Responses to District-football movement gaining steam in 4A

  1. My God, Cedar Falls could play the cheerleaders and win that district.

  2. Keep in mind this is only in the discussion stages, with no decision made until at least later this fall. I wonder if the state would place the smallest Class 4A schools — Assumption, North Scott, Wahlert and Xavier — into the same district, assuming they all are made Class 3A? Possible, but the only one that I could see petitioning to “play up” is North Scott.

    Over here in the Quad Cities, the obvious benefit, if it can be worked out and they’re granted permission, is for the MAC schools to play schools from the Illinois Quad-Cities (the Western Big 6, meaning Moline, Rock Island, Rock Island Alleman and United Township of East Moline; plus the North Illinois BIg 12′s Geneseo, for instance); way back when, I understand, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Dubuque schools also played Rocky, Moline and UTHS. The benefit I guess would be non-conference teams playing each other. I know there are some coaches in the MAC that want to play MVC schools, that is a tougher set of schools at least at one point in the year.

  3. With this, would they eliminate Class A altogether? With the increase of schools participating in 8-man, six football classes is far too many….

    • Actually, Class A football should be quite a bit bigger next year. In the past, 3A, 2A and 1A have all had 64 schools. Next year, they’ll all have 56 (8 districts of 7). That’s 24 more “A” schools, assuming none consolidate, disintegrate or go 8-man.

  4. Moving those private schools to 3A would pretty much solidify a private school winning 3A state every year. Not many current 3A schools could compete with Xavier\Wahlert\Assumption. If it is a private school inside a 4A region (IC, CR, etc) they should be automatically bumped to 4A.

  5. Splitting up the 3 public davenport schools does not seem logical.

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