The new Iowa High School district football assignments for the 2018 and 2019 seasons were released last week and there were some significant changes made by the Iowa High School Athletic Association Board of Control regarding playoff qualification.
The playoff system will remain 16 teams, but only the district champion and/or co-champion will be automatically eligible. The 17-point district tiebreaker has been eliminated and now other at-large selections will be determined by a new RPI formula.
The new RPI will focus on the following criteria:
• A team’s overall win-loss percentage (37.5 percent of the index)
• The win-loss percentage of a team’s opponent (37.5 percent)
• The opposing team’s opponent win-loss percentage (25 percent)
Another major change is that for the first time ever, all nine games will count toward playoff qualification instead of just district games. The wins count the same for all classes.
“I do like that every game matters, but I would have liked to see classification weighting as we have natural rivalry games with several schools in our area who are in a class above (us),” Nevada head football coach Andrew Kleeman said. “The system has forced schools to re-evaluate non-district scheduling. I also was hoping for a return to the 32-playoff team format. An overwhelming majority of head coaches and athletic directors in the state were in favor of 32 teams. However, the association has valid reasons for continuing with 16 teams.”
Colo-NESCO head coach Josh Nessa also has some issues with the new qualification format. He is especially concerned with their now being smaller districts, where teams in certain classes will only have to play five district games.
“I am still on the fence until I see it in action,” Nessa said. “I understand the intent to get the best teams into the playoffs. On the other hand, to qualify as the champion of a district, some teams will only have to beat five teams. To qualify as a wild card every game is considered. I feel this is unfair. I feel that the reason they want to use the RPI system is to make it easier for the IHSAA to create classes of any size with any number of districts the association wants. Making the brackets for playoffs would be much easier.”
As for the new district alignments, Nevada has been moved down from Class 3A to 2A and Colo-NESCO will remain an 8-man program.
Nevada has primarily been a 3A school over the last 20 years. But in 2012-13, the Cubs went down to 2A with good results — they qualified for the playoffs both years.
“When the state reduced class 4A to 42 teams and Class 3A to 54 teams, that pushed a group of us down a class,” Kleeman said. We are excited to play in a new district that will be very competitive and arguably one of the strongest 2A districts.”
Nevada is in 2A District 7. Also in the district are Heart of Iowa Conference rival Roland-Story, familiar foe West Marshall and three fresh faces in Benton Community, Union and Vinton-Shellsburg.
Nevada will play five district games and have four non-district opponents.
Colo-NESCO is back in 8-man District 5. The Royals will face off against 2017 foes AGWSR, Twin Cedars, Melcher-Dallas and Meskwaki in the district and add Baxter, Collins-Maxwell and Gladbrook-Reinbeck.
“I am excited because I think it will have some great competition and some improving teams that will challenge our team and coaching staff,” Nessa said. “I am also really excited to create more rivalry games with teams that are closer to our school, namely Collins-Maxwell and Baxter. I am really happy to decrease travel time. That is a reoccurring issue with football in general, but 8-man especially. In the past, we have had a few times a season that we have to travel close to, or more than two hours one way.”
With the larger district Colo-NESCO will play seven district games with only two non-district foes.
Also of note: For the first time teams will be able to play games against opponents from outside the state. They will be able to face off against schools from boardering stats in Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin as well as Kansas.