Creating high school football districts, sanctioning girls flag football headline 2023-24 IHSA ballot

The IHSA’s Legislative Commission will vote on November 27 followed by all schools in December
Three-peat: Lena-Winslow football captures third straight state title
Three-peat: Lena-Winslow football captures third straight state title(WIFR)
Published: Nov. 7, 2023 at 4:16 PM CST
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BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WIFR) - The IHSA has released the 23 proposed by-laws to be voted on in November and December. Of the 23 proposals, a district football proposal for the regular season and playoffs headlines the 29 pages worth of ideas. Along with changes in boys high school football, other notable proposals such as sanctioning girls flag football and changing transfer rules are on the ballot this year. You can see the full list here.

Here’s how the organization of the new district system would work: every team will be organized from smallest to largest dividing the list of teams into eight classifications (1A, 2A, 3A, 4A, 5A, 6A, 7A, 8A). Aspects like success factors, multipliers and teams electing to play up will still factor into classifications. From there, each classification will be divided into eight regions based on geography, with eight teams in each district (8A-District 1, for example).

Once the districts are determined, weeks three through nine of the regular season will be matchups between teams in each district, with the top four teams in each district qualifying for the postseason. Weeks 1 and 2 will be non-district games. This would make two major changes to the current playoff structure. The first is that teams will know what playoff field they’d be qualifying for immediately, rather than their class being determined by the 256 qualifiers at the end of the regular season. Second, this would eliminate the 6-win qualifier or 5-win eligible placements, putting qualification entirely on how you did in comparison to others in a team’s district.

In his proposal, IHSA Official Representative Matt Hensley said the rationale behind the changes includes “Conference stability...Eliminate creative scheduling to get the magic 5th win...Give some type of system that the public understands...(and) Teams earning playoff bids versus like schools.” Hensley’s submission is on behalf of the Apollo Conference, Big Twelve Conference, DuPage Valley Conference, and Interstate 8 Conference. If passed, the proposal would go into effect in 2024.

Also on the ballot this year is sanctioning girls flag football as an IHSA sport. The sport would be the sixth girls sport since the year 2000 to become state-sanctioned and the first since girls wrestling in 2021. The stateline has seen firsthand growth of the sport, with seven schools fielding varsity teams in 2023 including Auburn, Guilford, East, Jefferson, Harlem, Freeport, and Eastland. Beginning in 2021, the Chicago Bears have served as an organizing body, and have hosted the 2022 and 2023 state championships at Halas Hall.

The first round of voting will be held on November 27 by the IHSA Legislative Commission. From there, any proposal that receives a simple majority will advance to the final round of voting from December 4-18, where all schools will vote on the final proposals. Any proposal that receives a simple majority in the all-school ballot will “pass” and will come into law on July 1, 2024, unless noted otherwise.