In the next two weeks, we at the News-Telegraph will begin publishing previews of our area football teams.

Some look to have great seasons. Others will be building toward what they hope is future success. We hope none will struggle.

There’s teams like that in every crowd, in every corner of the state and country.

But something I believe all teams have in common: A desire to win and be successful on the field.

With that point made, I want to revisit for a little bit a point I’ve made before in this column about the so-called “Saber Metrics,” the proposal by Iowa City High Coach Dan Sabers to level the playing field in sports with a new classification system.

Sabers, in an article earlier this year in the Des Moines Register, suggested to the Iowa High School Athletic Association that schools should be bumped to the next higher class for tournaments if they meet any of these criteria:

1. The ability to decline admission.

2. A location within 15 miles of a 4A school.

3. Fewer than 25 percent of students eligible for free- or reduced-price lunches.

4. A jump in enrollment by 50 percent over a three-year span.

The proposal has gained lots of steam, to the point where the Iowa High School Athletic Association, in a news release, said their Classification Committee — the committee tasked with reviewing the overall classification structure — is expected to take up the issue. More than two dozen schools had submitted a form resolution asking for the issue to be addressed and resolved during the upcoming school year.

Certainly, those schools are saying something: The system is unfair for a number of reasons, and — seemingly to me at least — separates the “haves” from the “have nots.”

In fact, Des Moines Public Schools spokesman Phil Roeder told the Register, “It’s more than just bad players or bad coaching. To us, it’s a systemic issue that’s causing our schools and other schools with similar makeups in Iowa to essentially have zero odds of winning when facing schools that have more experience and resources in some sports.”

But if a new system goes into effect, what will it change?

For some schools, absolutely nothing.

First, a disclaimer: It’s not really an issue with any of the schools the News-Telegraph or Audubon County Advocate Journal follow. Of the eight schools we follow, all of them pretty much have the same, or at least comparable, socio-economic status. Atlantic is the largest school of the eight, while the rest are either Class 1A or 2A.

That being said, perhaps it could mean some more post-season success for schools like the public schools from Council Bluffs, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson. I take it they would no longer have to play schools like West Des Moines Valley or Urbandale or Ames, which were among the 16 schools earmarked for a “super class” for football under one of Sabers’ proposals.

Even Council Bluffs Lewis Central, a fellow Hawkeye Ten School that played a Class 4A schedule for several years earlier this decade, found the sledding tough against teams like Johnston, West Des Moines Valley and West Des Moines Dowling. Again, they’d consistently beat their local rivals and the inner-city Des Moines schools, and did get a big victory over emerging powerhouse Ankeny Centennial, but the results were different against the state’s elite.

But for the large school classification system that the “Sabers metrics” is aiming to address: How is that going to stop West Des Moines Dowling’s dominance in football? Looking at playoff results the past several seasons, even with a 16-team “super class” (which it proposes) they’d still dominante and win handily. What about the other 15 schools?

And what for those schools that perennially struggle, like Des Moines North or Des Moines Hoover, teams that perennially are at the very bottom of the Class 4A food chain? Truth be told, even if there were some classification system that would assign them to a class with what’s now Class 2A or 3A schools, the way things are they’d struggle.

Mitchell Moore, a coach at Des Moines Roosevelt, perhaps said it best when he said that some big schools are looking for excuses. “We need to provide our kids with better facililties and support rather than blaming it on socio-economics and upbringing,” he told the Register. “I think we can all look in the mirror and understand that this isn’t about athletic ability, but more about accountability and consistency. Everybody has their opinion. Mine is that you develop your kids.”

The only solution there is to get better. Change the culture. Hire better coaches and get good athletes to stay at your program. Encourage them to work hard and achieve at the very highest level.

I got a nice thank you this week from one of the Atlantic senior athletes, Chase McLaren, the all-state athlete in two . He was very happy with the positive coverage and how it shone a good light on him.

Also, we heard from the grandparents of the Tournament of Champions winner, Nathan Zimmerman, the Treynor Rec Area Golf Club representative who came from behind on the last hole to win this year’s event, the 61st. They were so happy they bought 10 copies each of Saturday’s and Monday’s issues, which gave coverage of the event.

We’re always happy to hear these remarks and hope that you continue to appreciate a good thing.

We plan to keep on our mission of bringing positive, informative and complete coverage of all local sports in southwest Iowa. We appreciate everyone who has continued to make this possible.

Sadly, not all areas of the state will continue to get this kind of coverage, I fear, with GateHouse Media’s acquisition of Gannett’s properties, including the Des Moines Register.

The Register might be a bit better off because they’re still considered “the Newspaper Iowa Depends On,” and two of the properties owned by the “new Gannett” — the Ames Tribune and Iowa City Press-Citizen — are college football towns and will be counted on for full sports coverage of the Iowa State Cyclones and Iowa Hawkeyes, respectively.

But we’re aware that some of GateHouse’s daily newspapers, including those in Iowa, have scaled back their deadlines drastically. I am aware of one instance where the deadline is 8:45 p.m. every night, even on football Friday night, with their newspaper printed at a printing center almost 100 miles away ... meaning you have to wait until Sunday to get the update. They might update on the web, but you don’t get that immediacy that papers that have stuck by their old very-late-Friday-night or early Saturday morning deadlines for Saturday’s newspapers.

Enjoy what you’re getting with the News-Telegraph. We’ll be at the games. We’ll be there with the full coverage. We’ll have it waiting for you Saturday morning.

To reach Brian Rathjen, send correspondence to or phone (712) 243-2624.