Citing the safety concerns of a compact postseason grind, the Iowa High School Athletic Association is considering a move that would condense the football regular season to eight games.
A decision is expected next Wednesday, the day before the IHSAA releases its districts for the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
IHSAA assistant director Todd Tharp said the concept of an eight-game regular season has been recommended to the Board of Control by the IHSAA’s football advisory committee.
“I honestly don’t know how it will turn out,” Tharp said Thursday. “The Board will be weighing a lot of aspects.”
In the current nine-game format, the first round of playoffs is the Wednesday after the regular season, then the second round and quarterfinals are the following Monday and Friday. So teams reaching the quarterfinals play four games in a 14-day span.
“That’s a concern,” Tharp said about physical recovery between games.
If the IHSAA adopts the eight-game schedule, the first three rounds of the playoffs would be played on Fridays.
“You talk about football, and you talk about Friday Night Lights,” Tharp said. “It’s not Monday or Wednesday Night Lights.”
Tharp said playing a nine-game schedule, then contesting playoffs on successive Fridays isn’t workable because of the possibility of UNI hosting FCS playoffs on the week that the championship games would be scheduled for the UNI-Dome.
Curt Ritchie, coach and AD at Williamsburg advocates moving the entire season up a week earlier, to what is presently coined “Week Zero.”
Ritchie said. “I don’t think anybody is really happy now with the quick turnaround between playoffs,” Ritchie said. “If you move the season up a week, you can get your nine games in, and spread out the playoffs.”
But, Tharp said, issues arise there, too.
“If you move the season up, you’re starting practice the first week of August, you’re coming right off state baseball and you’re playing games Aug. 20 or 21, and most schools aren’t even in session then,” he said.
The question was posed to Tharp whether non-qualifiers would play a ninth game the same night of the playoffs.
“That would be something we would have to decide,” he said. “From our standpoint, I’d be apprehensive in matching fifth-place teams against each other and sixth-place district teams against each other and force them to play an extra game. At that point, some of those teams might be ready to put their pads away.”
If the regular season is shortened, every school will lose one home game — and the revenue that goes with it — every other season.
“That’s one of several factors I would like to see a way we can maintain a nine-game season,” said Paul James, athletics director and coach at Cedar Rapids Washington.
“Part of it is tradition. A nine-game season goes fast for seniors.
“And what if you’ve got a kid that’s academically ineligible? If he’s out five games, is he going to stick it out just to play three games (plus the postseason)?”
Cedar Rapids Xavier Coach Duane Schulte is in favor of status quo.
“Eight games, I don’t think I’m for that,” Schulte said. “Football is traditionally a nine-game season. Yes, the playoffs are a grind, but you get used to it. You suck it up, you grin and bear it.”