The Iowa High School Athletic Association caught everyone — the Iowa Football Coaches Association, athletic directors across the state, the media, school boards and others — by surprise with an unexpected announcement Friday detailing numerous changes to the upcoming football season.
That there will be a season to begin with may have been a motivating factor, as rumors were circulating that one or more county boards of health might have been considering asking for a delay, or cancellation, of football if not all fall sports. The IHSAA and Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union will release Monday, as previously announced, their plans for how to conduct fall sports.
The state tournaments for baseball and softball are soon to begin. Iowa is the only state to have played any kind of varsity sport since the end of March. A total of 338 schools played baseball and 335 softball, with COVID-19 impacting 21 baseball and 26 softball teams. A total of 97 percent of baseball and 96 percent of softball teams finished their respective seasons, a success rate many doubted would be achieved.
The IHSAA Board of Control approved numerous changes Friday, noting football was the only sport in which the IHSAA manages both the regular season and postseason qualifying.
The revised plan, a press release stated “considers flexibility for school return concerns, geography, postseason qualifying, transportation, and possible COVID-19 cases as rationale for changing previously announced varsity football schedules.”
Under the plan, the first day for practices (Aug. 10) and first day to compete (Aug. 27) remain unchanged, with the state semifinals (Nov. 13-15) and championships (Nov. 20-21) also unaltered.
Teams will now play a five, six or seven-game regular season. The first two weeks of action in Classes 3A-A remain unchanged, with week five-nine games moved up two weeks each. Therefore, a week five opponent (the first of five consecutive district games) will now by played Sept. 11, or week three.
That means games originally slated for week three and four are likely to be eliminated, though that decision is up to individual schools. Local district may opt not to play any non-district games (thus a five-game slate), a one non-district outing (thus a six-game schedule) or two non-district and all five district contests (seven regular season games).
The former RPI formula used to determine playoff qualifiers is, for 2020, suspended. As a result, all teams in all classes, regardless of record, will play in the first round of the playoffs Oct. 16. Second round games will be played Oct. 23, third round games Oct. 30 and quarterfinals Nov. 7.
“The IHSAA will determine postseason pairings with geography, quality, and team availability as primary considerations,” the organization said. “This is intended to be a one-time measure for postseason formatting.”
Class 4A will be required to schedule their own regular season, with previously determined groups and qualifying measures not implemented this year.
Eight-Player poses a unique set to circumstances, with the IHSAA stating “Teams will play Week 3 through Week 9 of their previously announced schedules in what is now Week 1 through Week 7. Due to the number of teams in the classification, Eight-Player has opponents scheduled on the optional dates of Week 1 and Week 2. Teams in Eight-Player may opt out of those contests, but may not change opponents or locations unless an agreement is reached with all participating teams and the IHSAA.”
Realizing the state, county or local health departments guidance could potentially force a team to miss games due to COVID-19, those schools will not be penalized with a loss or forfeit, with such games considered a “no contest” that would not be rescheduled. Teams who have an opponent stopped from playing are free to work with the IHSAA and possible opponents to fill the unexpected opening.
Perry will be a part of Class 3A District 8 with ADM, DC-G, Des Moines Hoover, Norwalk and Winterset, while Panorama and Woodward-Granger will both play in Class 1A District 8 along with AC/GC, Kuemper Catholic, Van Meter and West Central Valley.
Other area assignments include Ogden, Madrid and Woodward Academy joined by Earlham, Nodaway Valley and Wayne in Class A District 8, while Class 2A will included Greene County, Atlantic, Clarinda, Des Moines Christian, Red Oak and Shenandoah.
Perry’s new schedule is uncertain at this point. The Bluejays were to host Greene County Aug. 28 and visit Nevada Sept. 4, with a week three trip to Saydel and a week four visit from Clarke now up in the air as the district games are bumped forward two weeks.
No word has been received on who, or where, Perry games will be held in week one and two.
Perry will now play district games at DC-G Sept. 11 and at Norwalk Sept. 18, with Winterset visiting Dewey Field Sept. 25 and Des Moines Hoover coming to Perry Oct. 2. A trip to ADM Oct. 9 now completing the regular season.
Panorama has confirmed they will need to find a new Aug. 28 foe, as Des Moines Christian, who was to visit Panora, has bowed out of that game and is seeking a different opponent. The Panthers have announced their Sept. 4 trip to Clarinda is set.
Formerly scheduled were a home game week three against Interstate-35, with a drive to Mt. Ayr originally planned for week four.
When district play begins Sept. 11 Panorama will host Van Meter, with trips to Wooward-Granger and West Central Valley set for Sept. 18 and Sept. 25. Panorama will host AC/GC Oct. 2 and Kuemper Catholic Oct. 9.
W-G’s opening game with visiting Madrid has yet to be confirmed, although a Sept. 4 game at Ogden has been announced. Week three home games with Woodward Academy and a week four visit to Pella Christian are now certain to be changed.
The Hawks open district action Sept. 11 at AC/GC, with W-G to host Panorama Sept. 18 and Kuemper Catholic Sept. 25. W-G visits West Central Valley Oct. 2 and will host Van Meter Oct. 9.