Clark: Border-free playoffs the way to be

SHARE Clark: Border-free playoffs the way to be

The annual tweaking of the IHSA rule book took another step forward this week with the release of the 16 proposals that member schools will get a chance to comment on in November.

Some of them aren’t likely to cause much of a stir, like the pitch to allow Scholastic Bowl contests throughout the year.

But expect some heated discussion on others at the 28 Town Hall meetings scheduled for Nov. 6-19. And what didn’t get on the short list of proposals also is sure to generate plenty of chatter.

Football, predictably, is at the center of the discussion. The two proposals guaranteed to jump-start debates:

* Proposal 9, offered by Sycamore, which would create regions for football and put the IHSA in charge of regular-season scheduling.

* Proposal 7, offered by Willowbrook on behalf of the West Suburban Conference, which would create separate state tournaments for boundaried and non-boundaried

schools.

Then there’s the push to return to 1-32 football seeding in each class instead of the current 1-16 or 1-8 breakdowns.

Glenbrook North offered the latter and Spartans coach Bob Pieper remains bullish on the proposal’s chances despite the IHSA decision not to send it to the Town Hall meetings.

“Marty [Hickman, the IHSA’s executive director] is going to put together a committee to review seeding not only for football, but for all sports,” Pieper said. “We think it’s a positive [development].”

The hope is that 1-32 seeding could return for the 2015 playoffs, cutting back the number of regular-season rematches in the early rounds of the postseason. This year, there are 20 in the first round alone, including Glenbard South and Riverside-Brookfield meeting for the second straight weekend.

Going back to the 1-32 brackets that were the rule until 2000 faces several hurdles. One is the IHSA’s preference for broad geographic representation in the state finals.

Another is the understandable desire to limit travel in the early rounds of the playoffs in order to avoid disrupting kids’ school schedules.

But, as Pieper said of football, “even though we don’t want to be different, we are different.”

That’s true. The football postseason, in terms of competition, is the shortest of the team sports. And all the games happen after school on Friday or on Saturday. So a long bus ride wouldn’t have kids nodding off in class the next day. And pushing off possible rematches till later rounds would produce better games down the road, which seems like a reasonable goal. So here’s hoping Pieper’s optimism is justified and the 1-32 brackets make a comeback.

There is less to recommend the other two proposals.

Some great rivalries would go by the wayside if Proposal 9 passes as teams separated by geography, class or both could be denied the chance to play each other.

Goodbye, Mount Carmel vs. Loyola, a classic North Shore vs. South Side matchup of two teams often in the hunt for state titles.

Nazareth vs. Joliet Catholic? So long. Leo vs. Hales? Forget about it.

The Sycamore proposal mirrors the current set-up in Iowa, where the state association draws up schedules (and also forbids teams from playing out-of-state opponents). It’s a approach that solves a problem that doesn’t exist for a lot of schools, namely, how to fill a schedule. Some teams do have a hard time finding opponents – that’s been one of the drivers of recent conference shuffles. But this isn’t the way to cure that.

Creating separate state tournaments for boundaried and non-boundaried (including private and magnet public schools) is another bad idea. Part of the appeal of the IHSA playoffs is the way it brings together schools and kids from diverse backgrounds, creating interactions that might never happen otherwise.

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