The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) approved two separate changes on Monday in Bloomington.
A new rule limiting contact during football practices was approved as well as a change to the current playoff format in football, baseball, softball, boys' and girls' basketball, boys' and girls' soccer and girls' volleyball.
“The IHSA has been an innovator on player safety throughout its history,” said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman in a release. “We appreciate the efforts of the medical professionals and high school football coaches who worked together on these changes in order to keep the safety of Illinois high school students at the forefront.”
The first change goes into effect on the Monday preceding the first allowable regular-season football game each August (Week 8 of IHSA standardized calendar). At that juncture, football teams will be limited to three days of live full contact per week, with a total of 90 minutes of live full contact to be used over the course of those three days. The second change allows only one practice per day to contain full live full contact when practicing two times on a single day during the preseason acclimatization period.
“I am proud to be part of the proactive approach the IHSA continues to make for student-athlete safety,” said Wauconda Principal and IHSA Board President Dan Klett. “As a former coach, and a parent of a current high school football player, it is imperative to me that we listen to the all the invested parties, from a state and national perspective, to make sports as safe as possible.”
For the playoff format adjustment, teams could be effected by more travel. The factor of talent and success of a program will outweigh its geographical proximity to another program in an attempt at limiting two upper echelon teams having to meet early in the postseason.
In the IHSA football playoffs, Class 1A-6A will be seeded in two geographic brackets 1-16, eliminating the previous mileage component within the policy that would change the bracket to quadrants if certain travel mileage distances were exceeded. Class 7A and 8A will now be seeded 1-32.
Last season the Alton Redbirds would have been in 7A, while Granite City fell into 6A, Marquette Catholic, Civic Memorial and Roxana were in 4A and East Alton-Wood River would have been in 3A. Roxana was the only one to qualify for the playoffs in 2014.
Beginning in 2015-16, team-bracketed sport teams (baseball, basketball, soccer, softball, volleyball) in Class 1A and Class 2A, as well as those outside of Chicagoland in Class 3A and 4A, will now be assigned to two sub-sectionals (as opposed to four regionals) that feed into a sectional site. Each sub-sectional will be seeded and the top two seeds sent to different regional sites. The competing regional site of the remaining teams in each sub-sectional will be determined by geography.
In Class 3A and Class 4A team-bracketed sports, teams will continue to be placed in the current sectional complex format as long as substantial travel does not require them to be placed in the aforementioned sub-sectional format.
“We appreciate the hard work by the ad hoc committee in creating their recommendation,” Hickman said. “Given the size and diversity of our state, it is very difficult to formulate a state tournament that adheres to the IHSA’s traditional geographic assigning principal, while also attempting to maintain competitive balance at each level of the tournament.
“The board felt like this was a good compromise that will be well-received by coaches and student-athletes around the state. Given the current economic climate we live in, the board will always be cognizant of travel and its impact, and noted that they will study the impact of this policy change moving forward.”
On Wednesday changes in classifications were also revealed on ihsa.org. The only change from the 2014-15 season in the Greater Alton area is Marquette boys' basketball has been reclassified from Class 3A to Class 2A for 2015-16.