Every year when the IHSA football playoff pairings come out, there is always the talk of a bad matchup or that someone really had it taken to them.
I am not sure that the IHSA sticks it to anyone, but there are questions about seedings and so forth. There are some proposals the IHSA sent out Tuesday which calls for the expansion of the playoffs from 256 teams. One idea would have the bigger schools playing for a state title in the first week of December.
Some people, like former Marian Catholic football coach Dave Mattio, had a proposal a few years ago where everyone makes playoffs, except for a few schools. That is what Indiana does, but it has about half the schools Illinois does.
I do not think that is the answer. You are rewarding a team for going 1-8 or 0-9. It works for a 5-4 team which had some injuries and is playing better. Indiana does not seed, but uses a blind draw. That means an 0-9 team could host a 6-3 team or a 1-8 team. You could have two 9-0 teams meet in the first round. Of course, if you seeded with an "everyone's in," then you would have first-round playoff mismatches.
The IHSA could look at considering strength of schedule and not just points based on opponents' wins. It could also look at seeding 1-32 per class instead of 1-16 in two brackets, then 1-8 in quadrants. Not everyone will be happy, but you could better matchups.
Right now, in Class 7A, Catholic League Blue powers Mount Carmel and St. Rita could meet in the second round. These are two teams that would make a great quarterfinal or semifinal matchup. Instead, one would go to the Catholic League playoffs after the second playoff game, should each advance. Mount Carmel has 52 playoff points and should be a No. 1 seed, while the top seed in its quadrant, Whitney Young (9-0) has 36. Same in the other quardrant of the lower bracket. Edwardsville (9-0) has 36 points.
Providence (5-4) got a No. 8 seed in Class 6A despite having 54 playoff points — the most in the Catholic Blue. The Celtics played Loyola, Mount Carmel, Fenwick, St. Rita and Joliet Catholic — teams that all went 8-1. Its opponent, defending 6A champ Crete-Monee (8-1) and coach John Konecki said it should be a great first-round game and it will. The thing is, this was a quarterfinal matchup a few years ago and could have been a potential one this year.
If they did a true 1-32 seeding per class, there might be some travel, but I don't know if the coaches would mind. In 6A, Quincy is traveling to play Wester Big 6 foe Rock Island and the winner will play either Crete-Monee or Providence. That is going from one end of the state to the other. In cross country, local teams will travel to Edwardsville for a sectional.
There does not need to be a complete overhaul of the system, but there could be some changes. Remember, there used to be a Wednesday first-round playoff game. If you kept winning you could play three games in 10 days.