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Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, IA)

The Iowa prep football season won't be any shorter next season, but there could be one fewer game on teams' schedules.

The Iowa High School Athletic Association's Board of Control will vote next week on a proposal to shorten the high school regular season from nine games to eight. The reduction of a game would allow the state to eliminate the compact nature of the playoffs while still crowning a champion before Thanksgiving.

In 2013, the first round of the playoffs came on Wednesday, Oct. 30, with the second round the following Monday and the state quarterfinals on Friday, Nov. 4 - meaning 48 teams statewide played four games in two weeks.

Even the Friday to Wednesday bridge from the regular season to the playoffs is a stretch.

"Worse is the physical strain it puts on a kid. Sometimes it takes seven days to heal up at the end of the season, especially if you're banged up," Western Dubuque coach Brian Kuhle said. "You always worry a little bit if they're ready to go or not, and of course they're going to tell you they are. If the state is doing this based on what's best for the kids, they will go to the eight-game schedule."

IHSAA assistant director Todd Tharp told the Cedar Rapids Gazette's Jeff Linder that playing a full nine-game slate with each playoff game on a Friday is not feasible because of the possibility Northern Iowa could host an FCS playoff game the week of the championship games.

The state semifinals and finals are currently held at the UNI-Dome.

"You talk about football, and you talk about Friday Night Lights," Tharp said to Linder. "It's not Monday or Wednesday Night Lights."

Moving the season up a week, to what is currently known as "Week 0" could be complicated, moving practice right up against the end of the state baseball tournament - not to mention forcing training camps into the hottest weeks of the summer.

The move does not appear to be financially motivated.

Teams would be losing one home game every other season, and in Class 4A it could cause some teams from large metro areas to lose out on traditional rivalry games - the largest gates of the season - once the move to a district format is complete.

A decision is expected by Wednesday. Next year's district alignments are due to be released a day later.

January 18, 2014

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