Let’s just say that, from this sportswriter’s perspective, I’m glad to be covering Class 2A football, and that my alma mater back home – North Scott – is nestled safely in Class 3A.
The Iowa High School Athletic Association unveiled this new “success model” system – a “group” system that determines schedules based on geography and long-term program success – last week. This was in the wake of multiple comments and concerns over the past year regarding a perceived competitive imbalance between the state’s most successful teams and those teams that seem to lose more than they win.
The new system, applicable only to the state’s largest 40 schools, has no district champions ... just at-large qualifiers. Successful programs, as determined by a formula that places teams in groups and on “tiers” – the tiers based on how they’ve done in the past four years – play one another, while others play everyone else.
Bottom line: I understand that the IHSAA wants all schools that are members of their organization to be as successful as possible and wants competitive games, and it’s their job to give them the support to do so. But as I see it, it is not the state association’s job to create success.
Again, this falls back on the schools.
This all started because one coach of an eastern Iowa Class 4A school voiced a concern about competitive imbalance between his school and the suburban Des Moines schools. As I see it, that’s all because the team he coaches is in a down cycle right now, as many schools – even the most successful ones, as his has been in the past – go through. Even West Des Moines Dowling for several years in the 2000s decade had only barely above-average records.
And yes, I understands that some schools simply have more and better resources than others. But then again, some schools have good coaches and are able to do a lot with a little, while others ... well, maybe there needs to be some tough choices made.
Additionally, it’s as I’ve said before: This won’t necessarily mean the end of grossly one-sided games. Sorry, but some programs are just that bad.
The bottom line is, a successful athletic program all starts with things such as exemplary coaches, parental support, strong feeder programs and good athletes. And that the coaches teach things that are expected: Sportsmanship, how to be successful, goal setting and guiding student athletes who achieve in the classroom and are school leaders on and off the field.
Those are the things that matter most. Everything else is just gravy.
The good thing is this is a one-year cycle, so this will give the state a chance to assess this new “success” model and make decisions accordingly for the fall of 2021 and beyond.
We’ll see. Who knows? Maybe I’ll become a fan of it by season’s end, but I guess I’m just going to have to take a seat and see how it works.
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But now that we know who the district slate is for teams like Atlantic, it might be fun to speculate who might appear on the non-district portion of the schedule for the Trojans and a few other of the area 11-man teams.
When speculation was going around about where AHSTW would wind up, I was pegging them in as a Class 1A team, possibly having made a small gain but enough to bump them to a larger class, where they have had success. The Vikings were probably the News-Telegraph area’s most successful 11-man team this past decade, qualifying every year from 2011 to 2018, and weren’t that far away from qualifying in 2019.
The distance between Atlantic and Avoca is just 20 miles, and I thought it would get a good gate.
But, as AHSTW was kept as a Class A school this time around, I am doubtful IHSAA would want to have any team play up (or down, depending on your perspective) two classes. The only way that happens is if both teams are highly ranked in their classes and/or they have a longstanding rivalry, or the smaller of the two schools can show it can be competitive with their larger opponent.
Therefore, I don’t foresee an Atlantic-AHSTW football game anytime soon. Not happening.
The same logic goes for the two Council Bluffs public schools: Class 4A Jefferson and Lincoln. This, even though the BC Moore computer rankings had Class 2A Atlantic ahead by a touchdown of both the Yellow Jackets and Lynx (for 2018), and even though such a game might be entertaining and competitive. Both Jefferson and Lincoln will anyway likely be trying to schedule Class 3A or 4A teams to help their RPI rankings (as they won’t be playing the No. 1 team in their “group”).
So for Atlantic, I can foresee at least part of non-district schedule being somewhat similar to last year: Creston/Orient-Macksburg and Harlan, both Class 3A teams and on the Trojans schedule dating back as far as the 1930s. I know the Harlan series has been one-sided as of late in favor of the Cyclones, but I just see too much history in that one to let it go. There’s also lots of history in the Creston series.
Speculation, then, turns to who would be a good first opponent for the Trojans when the new Trojan Bowl is unveiled. There’s plenty of good choices out there as I see it. (Hint: Saydel is not one of them).
Using Interstate 35 as an eastern border and U.S. Highway 20 as the northern edge, I can foresee a team like Clarke of Osceola, a Class 2A team, coming to Atlantic. They’re only about 90 miles away. The Indians had a 3-6 season a year ago and are trying to build a good program, and I think they might be a nice foe and would make a good game.
If you want to get even closer, a Class 1A team that might be a good choice is ACGC, one of the teams we’re starting to cover a little bit more. Guthrie Center isn’t that far away – about a 45 minute drive – and they had a renaissance season this past fall in one of the state’s best Class 1A districts; despite a 6-3 record, they just missed the playoffs but they have several good players returning for 2020 that should make for a fine Charger season.
There’s several Class 3A teams that are possibilities as I see it: Boone, Gilbert and Perry. All won two or fewer games last year, and Boone and Gilbert have similar BC Moore ratings as Atlantic, so they could make for an entertaining first game. Perry was shut out six times en route to a winless season, but had its closest game against a decent Class 3A Nevada team.
That all said, the dilemma of a schedule for 2020 is up to the powers-that-be at Atlantic ... and all the area 11-man schools. They – not me – are the ones who put together their “priority” wish list of schools they’d like to play, and it’s up to the IHSAA to determine who the final teams will be.
We’ll know the answer sometime in early March.
I’m just glad I don’t have to decide the schedule or tell the state who I want to play.
But it is fun to speculate what we might see.
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Finally, thank goodness this winter isn’t nearly as bad as 2019, when we were beseiged by the cold.
And in a few weeks, we’ll be looking forward to the most popular of all sports: baseball, starting with spring training games.
Should be an interesting 2020 season.