High school football teams in Illinois will soon be taking a new road to try to qualify for the playoffs. An IHSA proposal has been passed by the member schools that will do away with conferences and place schools in districts to compete for playoff spots.
The vote was very close. 324 schools voted for districting. 307 voted against it. 69 schools did not vote.
Starting in 2021 all schools will be placed into districts by the IHSA. They’ll be grouped by school enrollment and group geographically. The schools in the districts will play each other during seven weeks of the regular season. At the end of the season the top four schools in each district will make the playoffs. (Note: schools will continue to play a nine game regular season by scheduling two other opponents on their own potentially preserving some long-standing rivalries. However only district games will count toward the district standings and the playoffs.)
Districting will give schools like Belvidere and Freeporter in the NIC-10 a better chance at making the playoffs because instead of playing Hononegah and Harlem, schools twice their size, they’ll be playing schools of comparable size. But this also means the end of conference races and conference championships and many tradition rivalries will go by the wayside. Another drawback is that many teams will have to travel longer distances for road games.
This change to districting will impact only the sport of football and only at the varsity level.