Why not invite everyone?
By BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
The Iowa High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) has never issued that call, but perhaps they should for the fall football playoffs.
Several years ago the IHSAA expanded the playoff field in each of the five classes (eight man-Class 4A) from 16 to 32 teams.
The reasoning, according to the IHSAA, was that so more athletes could experience the playoff experience.
In theory, that sounds good. In practicality, it cheapens the experience.
I’ve written about this subject in the past, took a few years off and was not planning on revisiting the topic until I saw that Mason City qualified for the Class 4A football playoffs.
Now Mason City had a good football team at one time. That was when Barry Alvarez, who is now the University of Wisconsin athletic director, was patrolling the sidelines. That also is ancient history.
The Mohawks finished the season 1-8, beating Des Moines Hoover (who also finished 1-8) for the final playoff spot in a five-team Class 4A district.
Playing in the football playoffs used to be a reward and an honor. Should teams winning just one football game be honored? Hmmm, didn’t take along for you to answer that one, did it?
If memory serves me correctly, two-thirds of the state’s Class 4A teams earn (that is using the term very loosely) playoff spots. Naturally, some of those teams are going to have losing records. This year nine of the 32 teams (nearly 30 percent) were below .500.
In addition to Mason City, Ft. Dodge, Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln, Burlington and Waterloo West, each with a 3-6 record, made the 4A field.
Collectively, 24 of the 160 teams involved in this year’s playoff field had losing records.
So, has the honor of qualifying for the playoffs been diminished? The answer depends on whom you ask. I feel that every time something loses its exclusivity, the star does not shine as brightly.
Secondly, by expanding the playoffs, the travel also was expanded. For example, WACO, for the second consecutive year, had to make the 100+-mile trip to Sully.
That actually was one of the shorter trips. Central Lyon/George-Little Rock, which is located about 20 miles east of the South Dakota border and 10 miles south of the Minnesota border), had to travel to Garner-Hayfield/Ventura for its first-round game. Garner is 20 miles west of Mason City, which makes for a 150-mile journey on a school night.
Norwalk, located south of Des Moines, traveled to Washington, and Fairfield journeyed to Winterset.
Just glancing through the first-round pairings shows me some very long (or short, depending upon your viewpoint) nights for teams and their supporters. And remember, first-round games were played last Wednesday night. The quarterfinals, also played on a school night (this past Monday) also featured some long trips.
Although the IHSAA always stresses academics comes first, they think nothing of making teams go across the state to play football. That basically diminishes education for two days (the day of the trip and the day following it). Hmmm, really?
But let’s cut to the chase and get to the real reason — cash. More teams mean more fans which equals more cash.
If you are going to water it down, why not invite all football teams to the post-season like is done in basketball? Shorten the schedule by a week because everybody will get a ninth game in the post-season.
I despise it when athletes are used in this manner and dislike it even more when it is said opportunities are being expanded. No, it’s pocketbooks that are being expanded.
But let’s not shoot arrows only at the IHSAA. Not to be outdone, the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU) showed it isn’t discriminatory in cashing in on its athletes. Recently, the IGHSAU expanded most girls’ sports to five classes to…you guessed it — provide more post-season opportunities for Iowa girls.
Do we really need five classes of Iowa girls’ sports? This isn’t Texas or California; this is Iowa.