It is official. Clarinda is moving up to Class 2A for the 2020 football season.
The Iowa High School Athletic Association announced the 2020 district and group assignments Thursday, Feb. 6, for all six classes of high school football in Iowa.
“We are excited for it. We knew we would be going up to 2A and had a pretty good idea they would pair us with some schools in close proximity to us. We just were not sure who else they were going to put us with,” Clarinda coach Collin Bevins said.
Clarinda is one of 54 schools to be assigned to Class 2A. The class was divided into nine districts of six teams. Clarinda was assigned to District 9.
Joining the Cardinals in the district are three traditional rivals - Atlantic, Red Oak and Shenandoah. Also competing in Class 2A District 9 will be Des Moines Christian and Greene County.
The Cardinals posted wins last season over the Trojans, Tigers and Mustangs. Meanwhile, Des Moines Christian posted a record of 8-2, while Greene County finished at 9-2.
However, Bevins said he does not put a lot of stock in prior results because the makeup of a team can change dramatically from season to season.
“You can’t look too much into how they were the year before. Time will tell once we get some game film and see how things stack up. We have some familiar opponents, while Des Moines Christian and Greene County have been very successful the last few years. I know Greene County graduated quite a few big guys up front. We did too, so we are going to be a different team just like they will be,” Bevins said.
Since Atlantic, Red Oak and Shenandoah are within one hour of Clarinda, the Cardinals are hoping to avoid several long road trips during the season. When the complete schedules are released later this spring, Bevins said he is hopeful the Cardinals will not have to travel to both Des Moines Christian and Greene County.
“Coming off the bus after at two and a half hour trip to Des Moines Christian would be a little tougher on our guys, but if we have the right attitude we’ll be alright,” Bevins said. “If you want to be a good football team you are going to have to win some games on the road at some point. We have to block that out and go play our game wherever it’s at.”
Along with playing five district games, the Cardinals will also play four non-district games during the season. Bevins said Clarinda will submit a list of preferred non-district opponents to the IHSAA to consider during the scheduling process.
“We have reached out to four or five schools. We are waiting to hear back from their coaches about what they want to do and who they want to play. We hope to have a pretty good idea who we could play before the schedules come out,” Bevins said.
The district assignments were announced after a special meeting of the IHSAA Board of Control held Wednesday, Feb. 5. During that meeting, the board decided to shift football to a one-year scheduling cycle for the 2020 season.
In the past, the IHSAA had used a two-year scheduling alignment. As a result, the IHSAA will reassess football formats again following the 2020 season.
“We have solicited lots of feedback from our membership and a one-year cycle gives us more time to evaluate that feedback and work on making classifications better,” IHSAA Board of Control chairperson Rod Earleywine said. “It’s never going to be perfect, but we acknowledge that there are problems with our current classification system and we need to see what kind of improvements we can make.”
Playoff recommendations out of a December meeting of the IHSAA football advisory committee, headlined by a proposal for an eight-game regular season and 32 playoff qualifiers in each of Class 3A, 2A, 1A, A and Eight-Player, were also denied during the meeting Wednesday.
“I like the idea of having a nine game regular season. That is big for your seniors because if you cut one game off that season, that is one game they never get a chance to play,” Bevins said.
The postseason featured 32 qualifying teams per class from 2008 to 2015. Consistent requests from the advisory committee and Iowa Football Coaches Association to return to that expanded field were heard, but put on hold during the unique one-year scheduling cycle.
A recommendation for nine regular season games and 32 qualifiers was declined by the Board of Control in December over concerns of reduced player recovery time and scheduling.
As a result, the 2020 season will feature nine regular season games and 16 playoff qualifiers in all classes. Playoff procedures - the district champions earning automatic berths and the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) ranking the remaining at-large qualifiers - will stay the same in 3A, 2A, 1A, A and 8P.
“I’m a fan of 16 teams. When I was in school they had 32 teams and it made for a long playoff for the teams that made it to the UNI-Dome,” Bevins said. “I feel you need to earn the right to be in the playoffs. Having 16 teams keeps the field small and makes it more rewarding to get into the playoffs.”
Competitive concerns and classification discussions, meanwhile, prompted the board to implement a success model for Class 4A.
Currently the division of the state’s largest high schools by enrollment, Class 4A features 40 teams. Those 40 teams have been divided into seven groups organized for geography and with the intention of providing greater competitive balance.
The groups were organized by measuring a program’s last four years of football results through the IHSAA’s RPI formula and their last four years of playoff success. All 16 playoff spots in Class 4A will be considered at-large and determined via RPI.