IHSA fails geography, fails to do right by volleyball
It is the question Naperville-area volleyball coaches and fans are asking this week.
Has the IHSA simply failed geography? Or does the state's governing body have a girls sports problem?
People are up in arms this week, after the IHSA reformatted the Class 4A Neuqua Valley sectional and put Benet, Naperville Central and Naperville North all in one regional at Naperville Central.
Even worse, the change arrived like a thief in the night. At the 11th hour when coaches last week went to seed teams, they found that the sectional had changed from one 23-team "complex" to four geographic regionals.
Naperville Central's appeal this week to IHSA executive director Marty Hickman was answered with a big fat "no."
The IHSA's reasoning is simple and formulaic, even if it does defy logic.
Yorkville, bumped up to Class 4A, is outside the IHSA's pre-drawn "Chicagoland box," thus triggering the breakup of the sectional into four regionals.
Here is the catch: little old Yorkville, right off Rt. 34, is all of 15 miles from sectional host Neuqua. Somebody forgot to tell Yorkville they're outside of the "box."
"Two teams with 25-plus wins playing in the first round of the playoffs, they would never do something like that that in football. Ever. Never going to happen," Naperville Central coach Brie Isaacson said. "That is what is so disheartening."
Interesting point. Imagine the outcry if Glenbard West and Wheaton North were forced to play a first-round playoff football game? You can wake up from that nightmare now, because the IHSA would never permit that to happen. Twitter and the football message boards would explode with rage.
While on the subject of football, let's talk the IHSA's favorite subject: travel.
In its regional/sectional calculus, the state beats like a dead horse the importance of limiting travel. Yet last October it had no problem lining up Belleville East to travel five hours on a Friday afternoon to play Waubonsie Valley in a first-round playoff football game.
"I just can't comprehend how we can't travel 18 miles to play Yorkville," Isaacson said.
Isaacson and others will be interested to see what happens when basketball assignments are handed out. Will the format stand, or will the IHSA make a market correction — too late for volleyball, of course.
It is hard to imagine boys basketball powerhouses like, say, West Aurora and Neuqua Valley forced to square off in a regional.
"A lot of people believe this will change before basketball even starts," Isaacson said. "Even if you make it better for the future, the kids this year who have worked so hard will not get a second chance."
Volleyball coaches like Isaacson, Benet's Brad Baker and Peg Kopec believe they are being subjected to a double standard, and that opinion wasn't born this week.
Last year Kopec sent a proposal to the IHSA to move regional finals to Friday evenings. It was flatly rejected. Apparently Friday Night Lights is limited to football. Last basketball season a farce was made of the Class 4A girls tournament when Bolingbrook, Whitney Young and Trinity — the three best teams in the state — were shoehorned into the same sectional.
In 2007 volleyball sectional semifinals and finals were scheduled for the same night. In one case four nationally ranked teams — Benet, the Napervilles and Downers Grove South — determined their sectional champion in one evening of volleyball.
Could you imagine the IHSA ever making Derrick Rose play two sectional games in one night?
"To say everything is equal and the same, the IHSA is the only ones who truly believe that," Baker said. "People who follow volleyball don't believe that that is what is going on. Too many believe that they treat girls differently."
If that is true, it is quite an indictment. It makes you wonder how far we have come in the 40 years since Title IX passed to level the girls/boys sports playing field.
Some have suggested that schools boycott the playoffs.
But then who ends up getting hurt? The IHSA maybe, but mainly the kids.
Isaacson stands up for her girls but has learned to accept what she cannot change. It is time for her to just coach, and her kids to play.
"What's most disheartening is it feels like you go unheard," she said. "The best I can do is coach my girls and train them."
Follow Josh on Twitter @jwelge96
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