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IHSA rule draws different reactions from locals

Class concerns

Newman's coach and captains walk to the center of the field for the coin flip at the beginning of the championship game.
Newman's coach and captains walk to the center of the field for the coin flip at the beginning of the championship game.

Public schools that have been continually eliminated from the postseason by non-boundaried schools will have to wait another year before new rules could shift highly-successful programs up a class or two.

On June 16, the Illinois High School Association announced it would push back the start date for its new rules dealing with postseason class placement, to the 2015-16 season.

In February of this year, the IHSA responded to feedback from schools – mostly public – searching for a change in the current playoff format.

"It's just about the competition between public and private schools," said Greg King, Sterling's athletic director. "You want it level. Even in sports besides football, open enrollment schools have dominated."

The new rules changes implemented a "success factor." The success factor moves teams to a higher class than their enrollment classification, if that team had extended success in the postseason.

The plan was for the changes to take place this fall during the 2014-15 school year, but confusion about the rules, the short time from presentation to taking effect, and another look at what was actually being implemented, pushed back the changes another year.

"I think it's something that needs to be looked at," King said. "Like anything, you don't want to implement something unless you are sure you got it right."

The rules say that schools would be moved up one class if the team had won two trophies at state over a 4-year span.

The team would be moved up two classes from their enrollment classification if the school participated in three championship games over 4 years, and the jump would be three classes if they participate in four championship games in 4 years.

The catch is that one of the trophies must be won in the last two school years in order to be bumped up. Schools would move down one class each year if they stop earning trophies, until they reach their proper enrollment classification.

“The Board believes that the changes approved to Policy 17 in February will help maintain competitive balance in the state,” said Dan Klett in an IHSA bulletin.

Klett is the Wauconda High School Principal and IHSA Board President.

There are two basic views on theses rules, and their thought process is this: Public schools believe that private – or non-boundaried – schools need to be more handicapped, while private schools believe that they are already being handicapped with the multiplier system.

The way private schools are placed into a class for the postseason, is their enrollment is multiplied by 1.65, and that new number is what is used to place schools. The multiplier is only used to teams that achieved certain levels of postseason success.

The consensus was that private schools have been dominating aspects of the postseason, and too often without proper competition.

One area school that will likely feel the effects of these changes is Newman. The Comets have seen a lot of success in the football postseason.

For instance, if Newman were to win a trophy at state in this upcoming season's playoffs, it would be the Comets' third such trophy in the past four seasons. Newman won the state title in the 2010 season and again last season.

The Comets would then be forced to move up a class during the 2015-16 season and compete in 3A instead of 2A, because they would have had two trophies in the past 2 years.

Newman will have an actual enrollment of 240 for the 2014-15 school year. It's multiplied enrollment is 396. Every four-class sport will be multiplied this upcoming year except softball, which will remain in 1A. Boys basketball, girls basketball, volleyball and baseball will all play in 2A.

Other private schools and football powerhouses such as Montini and Joliet Catholic who have had extended success, would also move up because of their success in the state playoffs. Montini played for its fifth straight 5A state football championship last fall, but lost 38-28 to another private school, Sacred Heart-Griffin.

Montini would be bumped up three classes from 5A to 8A, because of their continued dominance under the rules.

Of the schools that own the most state football titles, private schools sit atop the list. Joliet Catholic leads with 13, Mt. Carmel, which won last season, is next with 12 while Providence (9) and Driscoll (8) – which is closed –  round out the top 4.

The IHSA and most public schools believe the new rules are necessary, though there has been pushback from private schools.

"It's ridiculous," said Mike Papoccia, Newman's football coach. "We could potentially be moved up two classes. We don't have the numbers, size or speed that these bigger schools have.

"If they want to see somebody get hurt, then this is the way to go."

Papoccia served on the committee which voted on the adoption of the new rules, and voted in favor of moving teams to higher classes based on performance, but doesn't like the rule.

"I voted yes, partially to keep the boundary schools from complaining as much," he said. "They [public schools] just need to find a reason why they are not winning as much.

"I feel our kids work hard, if not harder than most schools. They don't come here for just football, they jell together for their faith. They come for faith, not football, and they come from the catholic feeder schools. If they think someone is cheating, turn them in."

But public schools who have run into a gauntlet in the form of a stacked private school during the postseason, such as Sterling, which lost to Montini during the 2011 playoffs, are largely in favor of the new rules.

"I would definitely love it," King said.

For public schools like Sterling, which compete in Class 5A in football, King loves the idea of successful teams moving up classes to face teams of similar competition level. The Golden Warriors were eliminated from the Class 5A playoffs in the second round by Montini, the eventual champions during that season.

The 2010 Warriors lost to Joliet Catholic 49-7.

"5A is brutal, dealing with as many private schools that you're dealing with," King said. "Montini, Joliet Catholic, those schools are getting the best players in a 30 mile radius, and they should play against the best of the best."

Sterling was knocked out of the playoffs during the 2009 season by Washington, a public school. Even though the result was the same against Montini, the loss to Washington didn't hurt as much.

"That one was a bit easier to swallow," King said. "You are playing against similar kids, and that's how it should be."

New waiver eligibility rules

A private school will gain one point for a regional title, and two points for a sectional title. A school that wins both a regional and a sectional in the same year will earn only two points.

Schools who earn four points or more in a 4-year span, or qualify for the state finals once in that time frame, will not be eligible for a waiver.

In football, winning a first-round playoff game will continue to be the threshold for determining waiver eligibility.

Note – When a private school qualifies for waiver eligibility, its enrollment will not be subject to the 1.65 multiplier, and will compete in a class that matches with its actual enrollment.

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