ROCKFORD (WREX) -
IHSA member schools are voting on a proposal this month to overhaul the current football system. Regions would replace conferences, and as the 13 Sports Authority learned, it's not a universally accepted idea. The vote is going to be extremely close when the yes or no decisions are cast on January 6. The goal is to stabilize Illinois' football landscape, but not everyone is on board.
"We just think it's something that can stop all these conference realignments," says Sycamore athletic director Chauncey Carrick, who helped write the proposal. "Realignments are usually happening because of football, but they affect every sport. For us at Sycamore, it affects 18 other sports."
The changes call for eight regions within the same eight classes we have now, eliminating conferences like the NIC-10, NUIC and Big Northern as we know them. This will force the state's football programs to play opponents based on equal size, not just location. Each region's four best teams would make the playoffs, eliminating the current five-win threshold.
"Everybody's looking for that magical fifth win and if the IHSA is in control of it, there's no one really to blame to say you left this conference to get this win or you stayed in this conference and got that win," says Christian Life head coach Tony Ambrogio. "It's different, football is driving this whole thing, to get those five wins to get into the playoffs."
Some rivalries will survive as teams will receive non-region games at the state's discretion, but conference tradition would fall by the wayside.
"As a fan of the NIC-10, it's gonna dissolve our conference which to me is a sad thing, because I think we have great balance in our conference and we've had a lot of success here," says Dan Appino, head coach at Auburn High School.
The proposal would take away a school's freedom to choose its opponents and travel schedule, and that doesn't sit well with everyone.
"We can make decisions based on our kids, on our situation, our economic situation, our competitive situation," says Denny Diduch, head coach of the 2014 1A state champion Forreston Cardinals. "What we would be doing now would is taking that responsibility and giving it to someone somewhere else in the state to make decisions for our kids that might not be in their best interests."
Carrick expects a dead heat for the month-long vote, and whether his colleagues are for or against the proposal he helped write, he's happy they're talking about it.
"Regardless of the vote, the conversation's started. It's a conversation that needed to happen. We put a framework out that says, hey this might be a possibility. Maybe what we have isn't the best right now, but those conversations are there to make it better and do what's best for the whole state."
The proposal still calls for the same number (256) of total playoff participants, but the setup will alter the path these schools take to qualify. For the full text of the proposal to be voted on by IHSA member schools, refer to page 15 of this document.