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Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, IA)
The Iowa High School Athletic Association's Board of Control on Wednesday unveiled a new playoff qualification system for Iowa prep football.
Beginning with the 2018 season, only district champions will be awarded automatic berths into the postseason, while a Ratings Percentage Index, similar to the system used by the NCAA basketball tournament selection committee uses, will fill out the remaining at-large teams, and Iowa teams will once again be permitted to play out-of-state competition.
The playoff field remained the same despite a recommendation from the Iowa Football Coaches Association and playoff advisory committee to return the field to 32 teams in every class except 4A, which would have had 24 qualifiers.
"Player safety is the No. 1 priority and we are also committed to playing early round postseason games on Friday nights," IHSAA executive director Alan Beste said in a release announcing the changes. "Keeping 16 qualifiers per class allows for maximum recovery time between games and maintains high school's Friday night tradition."
Only teams that win their district title, or tie for the title, will be granted automatic entry. The RPI — which takes into account a team's winning percentage, opponents' winning percentage, and the winning percentage of all opponents of your opponents — will fill out the rest of the 16-team brackets.
In another change and for the first time since the debut of the district format, all games from the regular season will count toward a team's playoff eligibility. In past seasons, only district games counted, which, for teams in Class 4A, meant at least four games on their schedules had no bearing on the postseason.
"Our goal is to have the best 16 teams in each class qualify for the playoffs," Beste said. "We believe we get closer to that goal by having only district champions as automatic qualifiers, and the remainder of qualifiers determined by their success and the success of their opponents and other successful teams."
The RPI will also allow the IHSAA to ditch the 17-point tiebreaker. Point differential will not affect a team's playoff eligibility, and teams will not be penalized for playing up or down a class. A win over a team in Class A counts the same as a 4A team.
And, for the first time since 2011, Iowa teams have the option to play teams from a bordering state, including Kansas.
Classifications and districts for the next two seasons were also approved at Wednesday's meeting. District alignments will be announced today.
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