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IHSA schools vote no on football districts

Updated: Jan 10

IHSA football
Peoria High's Lebron Mack talks to a referee during a game against Normal West. Francisco Alonzo/Clutch Sports Media

Districts for IHSA football are a no-go, at least this time around.

The proposal to eliminate the current state of conferences and re-aligning teams into districts based on class and geography was voted down after the highest IHSA voting turnout in over a decade. 379 schools voted against districts, 272 voted for districts and 76 voted no opinion. Schools voted in between Dec. 4 and Dec. 18.

The initial proposal, called Proposal 18, was put forth by the Big 12 Conference, as well as the Apollo, Interstate 8 and DuPage Valley conferences. Under the proposal, each class from 1A through 8A would have eight districts with eight schools in them, based on geography.

Schools would have played their seven district opponents with the first two weeks of the season being open for potential geographical and conference rivalries to stay. The top four teams in each distrct would qualify for the playoffs.

The proposal was regarded by some as not addressing potential issues, such as not having enough football-playing schools to fill out each district due to inevitable future enrollment and classification changes. The idea of districts, however, may not be done completely.

"The IHSA Board of Directors has already had discussions about the potential of forming a Football Ad Hoc Committee in 2024 in the event that this district proposal failed to pass," IHSA executive director Craig Anderson said in a release.

The proposal did not account for recent or historical success of each program, leading to some districts having a possible imbalance of power and competitiveness. An official proposal of what teams would fall into each district was not released by the conferences that came forth with Proposal 18 or by the IHSA either.

"They want to be proactive in trying to address the issues that are at the root of different football proposals seemingly being brought forth each year," Anderson said in the release. "They recognize the myriad issues in IHSA football are unique and can be based on geography, school size, conference affiliation, and the traditional success of a program, which is why no recent proposals have garnered enough support to pass."

Said Anderson in the release: "There is likely no singular answer to these issues, but the Board wants to explore the idea that a large and diverse group from around the state might be able to find some solutions that the high school football community in the state would support."

The distrct format came up for a vote in 2018 and passed by a 324-307 vote, but the vote was rescinded in 2019. The overturn vote resulted in 374 schools voting against districting and 241 school voting for it.

727 of the IHSA's 815 member schools (89.2 percent) voted in the 2023 legislative process, the highest voting turnout in over a decade.

Twelve other proposals were passed, including the following:

Proposal 17: Allows schools to conduct pre-season football scrimmages against another school. Scrimmages must have the following format: Four 12-play segments, no special teams, no live contact in the day before or after the scrimmage. Player must participate in practice for eight days in order to be eligible for the scrimmage and cannot play more than 48 plays in the scrimmage.

Proposal 4: Coaches are allowed to conduct out-of-season strength and conditioning training for no more than four days a week and no more than 90 minutes per day. Coaching of skills is not allowed outside of the season.

Proposal 5: Allows students to meet residency requirements if they have a parent/guardian that is a full-time staff member at a public school whose boundary they do not originally reside in if the school district has a policy that allows students of employees to attend school free of cost.

Proposal 12: Allows what was passed under Proposal 4 during summer contact days. Conditioning training does not count against the summer contact day count. Skills cannot be coached in order for it not to count as a summer contact day.

Proposal 16: Eliminates the IHSA Tournament Limiation by-law (5.004), which states:

"No athletic team, representing a member school, shall play in more than five (5) different games/contests/matches during any given interscholastic tournament, with the following exceptions:

• In wrestling, if the tournament takes place over two consecutive days.

• In baseball and softball, if the tournament takes place over the member school’s official spring break."

Proposal 22: Girls wrestling teams will now have 25 contests instead of 18.

The full release and proposals can be found here.

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