Prep Sports: New classifications make road tougher for area teams

By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter

The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) is constantly tweaking rules and guidelines to try to make things as competitive as possible for all schools.

After multiple tweaks to the multiplier system that determines what class private schools are placed in, the IHSA has made a big change that will have a long-reaching impact on area teams.

The IHSA has determined to redistribute the number of teams in each class for the state tournament series for every sport except football.

In the past, strict enrollment guidelines determined the class. This led to more teams being in the smaller classes, with nearly 28 percent each in class 1A and 2A, while there was a little more than 22 percent in class 3A and 4A.

The IHSA board of directors has now decided to evenly distribute the teams in each class, putting 25 percent of the teams in each class for all four classes, and 33 percent in three class sports.

On the surface, it doesn’t appear to be a drastic change. But for teams in the Rock River area, there will be some pretty drastic moves.

State volleyball champion Dakota will move from class 1A into 2A. Rockford Lutheran and Rockford Christian, which have both made a state final appearance in the past two years, will move from 2A up to 3A.

In addition, the Stillman Valley girls’ basketball team, which made state, will move from 2A to 3A. And the Belvidere North girls’ basketball team and the Rockford East boys’ basketball teams, which both made runs to super sectionals, will move from 3A into 4A.

What it does is it raises the level of competition for those schools in those sports. Teams like East and North, who struggled with 4A schools despite their success, will now be 4A schools full time.

A team like Rockford Lutheran may not have been able to make their run in 3A. While they did play Belvidere, a 3A regional finalist, and beat them, it was one of the more competitive games they played. And teams only get harder from there.

It will also fill up the regionals with even more local teams. In the past, you could at least count on multiple teams in multiple classes making deep runs in the state tournament.

Now, as it stands, more of these teams will be able to knock each other out early in the tournament, lessening the odds that a Rockford team can make a run at a championship.

The IHSA does a lot of things well. But the state tournament is becoming more and more odd.

The Rockford area, in most sports, often has several teams that could compete up to a sectional final level, but all but one are gone by the end of a regional.

Now, there will be fewer opportunities for that kind of success. Instead of being able to have Lutheran and Rockford Auburn down state, with East nearly joining them, only two classes have that opportunity. And now that the likes of Lutheran and Christian, not to mention East, Belvidere North, Dakota, Richmond-Burton and many others, are having to face bigger competition than they are used to, those opportunities could dwindle even more.

From the June 20-26, 2012, issue

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