The end of the 2013 football season also brings the likely end of 4A conference football in the eastern half of the state of Iowa. While the final decision on 4A district football will not occur until December, momentum appears to be building to moving to district football in 2014.
The Mississippi Athletic Conference has spent many years playing a full round-robin format among its ten conference schools. This is great for ease of scheduling and predictability of travel, but I do not believe this adequately prepares MAC schools for the playoffs. Matt Coss of the Quad City Times presented a telling statistic before this year’s second-round games. Mississippi Valley Conference schools – the conference with schools in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo-Cedar Falls, and Dubuque – MVC schools were 29-12 against MAC opponents. Even this year’s 2-2 split only brought the difference to 31-14.
The district format will break the 24 schools in the MAC and MVC into four six-team districts. This means schools would have four out-of-district games to schedule. Meanwhile, the Illinois Quad City schools in the Western Big 6 saw their proposed alliance with the Peoria schools fall apart this year. This leads to a very simple solution which will help all schools in the area.
Why it’s time to restart cross-state rivalries
The advent of Iowa 4A district football and the breakup of the Western Big 6-Peoria football alliance presents a great opportunity to create a bi-state alliance to advance football on both sides of the river. With 10 MAC schools and five Quad City area Western Big 6 schools, it makes sense for each WB6 program to play two MAC schools each fall. Here are three key reasons why Illinois and Iowa schools should restart their rivalries.
- Scheduling is made simpler – The WB6 schools always have difficulty scheduling out-of-conference games. In past years, the WB6 schools have had to schedule games with schools as far away as Chicago to complete their schedules. That type of travel in the regular season is difficult. MAC schools have more options to schedule out of conference schools in the MVC, but the WB6 would relieve a major scheduling headache playing two MAC schools each year.
- All schools will see different styles of play – Would Rock Island benefit from playing against Pleasant Valley’s triple-option attack? Would Bettendorf be better playing Rock Island Alleman’s stingy defense? Of course they would. Playing strong teams and seeing different styles of play will only help teams prepare for post-season play.
- The interest in these rivalries would rekindle interest in high school football – I have lived in Illinois and Iowa, and I know there is a healthy rivalry between the two states. Seeing WB6 and MAC teams square off will generate significant interest. The annual Genesis Shootout is the biggest basketball event in the area because it’s a full day of Illinois against Iowa. Rekindling bi-state rivalries would be a boost for the popularity of high school football.
How would schedules look?
I’ll use Pleasant Valley and Rock Island to illustrate how a regular-season schedule might look for the Illinois and Iowa teams.
- Pleasant Valley – Five district games, one game against a WB6 program, one or two games against non-district MAC teams, one or two games against MVC teams.
- Rock Island – One home game against a MAC team, one road game against a MAC team, two additional non-conference games, five conference games.
I expect district play to become reality in 2014. While it may take a year for a bi-state schedule to materialize, the athletic directors of the MAC and WB6 should take this opportunity to form an alliance which will benefit the schools and the community.