The biennial review of football districts has been completed by the Iowa High School Athletic Association and the results will change the competitive landscape for the Union Knights. In 2018, the Union will make the move to District 7 in Class 2A, where they will be joined by Benton Community, Nevada, Roland Story, Vinton-Shellsburg and West Marshall.

The addition of a ninth district in classes 1A, 2A and 3A means that each team will only play only five district games. Not only will schools play four non-district games, for the first time in recent memory, the results of those games will help determine who advances to postseason play.

At its monthly meeting on January 24, the Iowa High School Athletic Association’s Board of Control approved changes to the sport’s playoff qualifying system, and to allow out-of-state contests starting in the 2018 season.

“Player safety is the number one priority,” IHSAA executive director Alan Beste said, “and we are also committed to playing early round postseason games on Friday nights. Keeping 16 qualifiers per class allows for maximum recovery time between games and maintains high school’s Friday night tradition.”

The number of regular season games and playoff teams per class will remain unchanged for 2018 and 2019. Despite recommendations from the Iowa Football Coaches Association and playoff football advisory committee to expand the postseason field to 32 teams in Classes 3A, 2A, 1A, A, and 8-Player, and 24 teams in Class 4A following a nine-game regular season, the Board of Control unanimously opted to maintain the current schedule with nine regular season games and 16 postseason qualifiers per class. Such an arrangement will allow the season to end before a holiday break and avoid further overlap with winter seasons. Teams will continue to have nine home games and nine away games over the two-year district cycle.

The IHSAA’s football playoffs featured 32 qualifiers per class from 2008 until 2015. It returned to its prior format of 16 postseason squads in its six classifications in 2016.
The Board of Control followed other provisional recommendations made in last month’s advisory committee meeting in voting to distribute football districts and alter the 16-team qualifying structure.

Based on classification changes made in October, the Board discussed and voted to approve football districts that will allow all classes to add non-district contests and reduce district travel.

The new district configurations include 42 teams in seven districts in Class 4A, with each team playing four non-district games each season.
Classes 3A, 2A, 1A will consist of 54 teams in nine districts, six teams per district, with each team playing four non-district games.
There will be 62 teams in Class A; eight six-team districts and two seven-team districts. The six team districts will play four non-district games, with the seven-team districts playing three non-district games.
There will be 65 Eight-Player teams, with seven districts containing eight teams playing two games out of district each season. The eighth district will have nine teams, each playing just one non-district game.
The Board of Control approved an additional recommendation allowing varsity football teams to play games against nearby opponents in border states – Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Kansas.
“We will protect Iowa teams first, ensuring they have games each week,” Beste said. “However, we do have schools on our borders and other Iowa schools expressing interest in traveling for out-of-state competition.
Accommodating those requests for competitive and geographical purposes is a reasonable thing to do.”
Iowa varsity squads last played out-of-state opponents in non-district games in 2011.

The Road to the High School Football Playoffs

Last month, the Iowa High School Athletic Union approved sweeping changes to its playoff qualification system for the 2018 and 2019 seasons:

1. Only the district champion or teams tying for a district championship receive automatic qualification.
2. For the first time since the debut of district football, all nine games will count toward postseason qualification.
3. The 17-point district tiebreaker will be eliminated and not factor into qualification.
4. Remaining at-large qualifiers will be determined by a Ratings Percentage Index formula. The RPI will use three criteria to determine postseason qualification:
a. Team’s overall win-loss percentage (accounting for 37.5% of the index)
b. Team’s opponent’s win-loss percentage (37.5%)
c. Team’s opponent’s opponent’s win-loss percentage (25%)
5. Classification differences between non-district opponents do not affect RPI.
The NCAA uses RPI in several men’s and women’s sports. The Colorado High School Activities Association debuted a similar RPI system in 2016.
“Our goal is to have the best 16 teams in each class qualify for the playoffs,” Beste said. “We believe we get closer to that goal by having only district champions as automatic qualifiers, and the remainder of qualifiers determined by their success and the success of their opponents and other successful teams.”

Class 2A District 9
(2018-19 Seasons)
Team 2017 Record
Benton Community 6-3 (Class 3A)
Nevada 5-4 (Class 3A)
Roland Story 4-5
UNION 6-3
Vinton-Shellsburg 1-8 (Class 3A)
West Marshall 6-3