It’s known as Proposal 23 by the Illinois High School Association’s Legislative Committee.
To hear some football coaches talk about it, it might be as much of a game-changer as another 23 was for the Chicago Bulls.
Voting is going on until Dec. 17 for the motion, which would make sweeping changes to how teams are districted and how they are scheduled, starting in 2021.
Submitted by Andrew Lutzenkirchen, of Naperville Central, and Forreston Principal Travis Heinz, the proposal calls for the IHSA to place teams in classes before the season starts, rather than waiting until the playoff field is unveiled.
Then, the IHSA would group schools in geographic groups, most likely of eight per district, to play a round-robin schedule. Schools would be allowed to schedule two non-district games at their discretion, with those games not affecting their playoff hopes.
The top four finishers in each district would automatically qualify for the postseason, regardless of their regular season record.
“We’ve needed some change for a while as far as what we’re doing,” said Massac County coach Jason Roper. “I think it’s going to be a good thing for us, and I think it’s really going to help South Seven schools like Marion and Carbondale.
“Some bigger schools in a conference won’t be in favor of it because they’ll have to play teams their size, but I think it’s a 50-50 situation. It’s going to benefit some schools and not benefit others.”
Chester coach Billy Belton’s attitude has been that his team will play anyone, anywhere, any time. But should this proposal pass, he can already see the benefits of possibly playing district games with Sparta or Red Bud instead of riding a bus 2½ hours to Albion to knock heads with Edwards County.
Like the other nine Black Diamond Conference schools, the Yellow Jackets are presently locked into an all-conference schedule.
“It would make sense for us financially,” Belton said of the chance to schedule closer schools. “The thing I enjoy about the Black Diamond is every school is pretty much the same size, but for Chester, I think it would help.”
Roper said if this proposal passes, it could bring back some tasty county rivalries that were scotched in part of the long-standing IHSA requirement that playoff teams must win at least five games.
The first game that came to his mind was Marion and Herrin, teams that haven’t played since 2011, when the Wildcats prevailed, 34-28. Another one was the Saline County showdown between Harrisburg and Eldorado, which hasn’t been played since the Eagles became part of a closed conference before the 2003 season.
“When I was at Harrisburg and we were good,” Roper said, “no one wanted to play us. Everyone was trying to find the weakest team so they could get to five wins. I don’t think you’ll have that any more.”
The major negative to this proposal could be increased travel for bigger schools. Should this pass, larger Metro East schools such as Belleville East, O’Fallon and Edwardsville could be faced with playing in the same district as Chicago-area schools. Administrators on both sides of that dilemma could be justified for hoping the proposal doesn’t pass muster.
Others aren’t thrilled with the possibility that the playoffs could include teams with losing records. They say that for every Joliet Catholic that goes 5-4 and wins the 5A state title, there are many more 5-4 teams that get waxed in the first round.
IHSA executive director Craig Anderson admits there is no perfect solution for every football-playing school in the state.
“It helps some schools while creating hardship for others,” he said of the proposal.
Voting results will be unveiled Dec. 18.