Lincoln athletic director Sam Knox — a member of the commission — said none of the three proposals that would have expanded the amount of teams making the playoffs gained much support from the commission or school representatives at town meetings.

“We met as a commission a few weeks ago and initially looked at the proposals, then we do a straw poll to get a first gut reaction,” Knox said. “Then we share the proposals at the town meetings and get a straw poll there. Based on both of those straw polls, the football playoff proposals just didn’t receive enough support to recommend them.”

Knox said he didn’t get much feedback as to why the proposals didn’t gain traction but said it’s tough to find a proposal that pleases everyone.

“None of them stood out as fantastic solutions, and I think the feeling is if we can’t find the perfect solution, let’s keep what we’ve got,” Knox said. “This is such a diverse state. There just doesn’t seem to be a magic formula that works for everyone.”

Currently, 256 of the state’s 558 football teams make the playoffs, which begin after a nine-week regular season. Proposal 21 — submitted by Gilman Iroquois West athletic director Hanns Meyer — would have cut the regular season to eight weeks and a team’s playoff qualification would have been determined strictly by a points system in which a team received two points for a win and one point for an opponent’s win. The top 512 teams, divided into 64 teams in each class, would qualify for the playoffs.

Proposal 22-23 (a combined proposal by Lincolnshire Stevenson athletic director Tricia Betthauser on behalf of the North Suburban Conference Athletic Directors) would have cut the regular season to eight weeks, with the option for teams not making the playoffs to schedule a Week 9 game. The playoff field would have consisted of 448 teams divided into eight 56-team classes, with the top eight teams in each class based on opponent’s wins receiving a first-round bye.

Proposal 24 — submitted by Naperville Central athletic director Andy Lutzenkirchen — would have kept the regular season nine weeks with 384 teams making the playoffs. Class 1A-4A would have kept 32 teams per class with the same playoff schedule as the current one, while 5A-8A would have had 64 teams per class with an extra round of playoffs that made the championship game a week later. In this proposal, all 4-5 teams and some 3-6 teams would have made the playoffs.

Part of the rationale of all the proposals was to give a chance for more teams and players to experience the playoffs. But the main goal was to limit conference realignment by discouraging teams from jumping conferences to find a more favorable schedule.

“Teams are looking for that fifth win, and a lot of the really good football programs in the Chicago area are having problems finding non-conference games,” Knox said. “The solutions all deal with allowing more teams in the playoffs, with the thinking that will keep people happy.”

Argenta-Oreana principal Sean German said he attended the town meeting in Clinton with athletic director Dan Sheehan and was in favor of a proposal that would expand the playoffs to include 4-5 teams in the playoffs.

“I’m definitely open to considering some expansion,” German said. “From our perspective, we’ve had some teams that went 4-5 (Argenta was 4-5 in 2009 and ’11) that went through the Okaw Valley Conference schedule. Those were teams that were good enough to where you say, ‘Hey, let them in and give them a shot.’ It all depends on the individual school and the schedule they’ve played, but it was difficult to see some quality football teams not get the chance to see what they could do in the postseason.”

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But German does not think playoff expansion would solve frequent conference realignment.

“I know that was high on the list of consideration for some schools, but realignment has been an issue as long as conferences have been in existence,” German said. “It might have decreased some of the heavier activity, but I don’t really see it as a solution to that problem.”

This is Knox’s third year on the commission and each year the commission has considered some sort of change to the playoff structure, but ultimately none have had the support to get recommended.

One of the proposals last year submitted by Eureka principal Rich Wherley and Maroa-Forsyth principal Scott Adreon suggested eliminating football conferences in favor of even-numbered divisions generated by the IHSA. That idea has also been discussed by the IHSA’s success factor ad-hoc committee, according to Monticello athletic director Randy Moss.

It was not proposed this year.

“We kick that around sometimes,” Knox said. “Last year there was a rough proposal, but it didn’t spell out how it would work in enough detail. But Missouri and Iowa both do that. I think it’s worth researching to see how that might work.”

German said he’s neutral to the idea of eliminating football conferences and allowing the IHSA to divide the schools by geography and enrollment, but wasn’t sure it fits the IHSA’s core ideals.

“It’s hard for me to have an opinion on that without having anything concrete to look at,” German said. “It would be beneficial to some and tougher to swallow for others.

“But one thing the IHSA prides itself on is being an association of the membership. The kind of third party oversight goes against that grain. I’m just not sure how much traction that would gain.”

Of the proposals approved to go to the IHSA membership for vote, none were particularly significant. Proposal 1 would require a co-op agreement be extended only with written approval of the conference. Proposal 7 would remove the one-year period of ineligibility for a transfer student enrolling in his or her boundaried public school for the first time. Proposal 8 would make the week of July 4 a “dead week” in which coaches could have no contact with athletes. Proposal 13 would allow football practice to begin two days earlier than it has previously.

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