IHSA amends multiplier waivers, classifications

The Illinois High School Association announced changes to its multiplier waiver policy and classification system on Thursday.

The multiplier has been set at 1.65 for non-boundaried schools since 2005 and has been only waived in the past if the IHSA accepted a school’s appeal. The waiver means the IHSA opts not to multiply a school's enrollment by that 1.65 figure.

The IHSA board has now approved a change in policy that will allow an automatic multiplier waiver to programs who have not achieved a certain level of success in the recent page. A program will receive the automatic waiver if it hasn’t won a trophy, qualified for the state finals tournament, won a sectional, won a regional two or more times or won a first-round playoff football game or finished in the top 10 in the music state sweepstakes.

“We have been studying the impact and effectiveness of the multiplier since its inception in 2005,” IHSA executive director Marty Hickman said in a statement. “Over the years, we have seen a number of instances where the multiplier has been overly punitive to some programs, resulting in lopsided outcomes in postseason contests. Now we have four years' worth of data since the class expansion that occurred in 2007-08, and we felt that we could address some of the inadequacies in the system.

“Our previous waiver policy was well thought out, but it simply turned out to be too conservative. There have been a number of compelling cases around the state where one highly successful team at a school or a few highly successful individuals have prevented all the other teams from that school from being able to receive the multiplier waiver. Our board felt the right thing to do was to change the waiver policy and give these student-athletes the chance to compete on more equitable ground.”

The IHSA also has altered the classification system in some sports. The cutoff for each class had previously been the same across the board no matter the sport, which created an imbalance in some cases. For instance, in boys golf last season, 245 of the 503 fell in the 1A classification, which was schools with less than 776 students, while only 111 were in 2A and 147 in 3A.

To fix that, the IHSA has created a different cutoff point for each sport during the 2011-2012 season. Next year in boys golf, the cutoff point has been lowered to 540 students.

In boys basketball, the classifications ranges will be 1-274 students in 1A, 275-669 in 2A, 670-1,580 in 3A and 1,581 and over in 4A.

“Our board looked at and discussed a number of different options for classification cutoffs,” Hickman said. “Some felt the most logical option might be simply cutting things squarely, for example having 25 percent of the schools in each class for four-class sports. In the end, the new percentages keep the cutoffs closer to the current system while distributing the entries more evenly than in the past.

“Different sports offered different challenges during this process. For example, the board felt good about the breakdown when three-class team sports were evenly split with a third of the competing schools in each class. Yet, when you look at the three-class individual sports, it was necessary to increase the percentage of schools allocated to Class 1A because many of the 1A schools have only a few individuals competing and don’t field full teams, which would alter the competitive balance for team advancement in the state series for those sports.”

Hickman understood the changes wouldn’t please everyone, but felt they were necessary.

“There is no doubt that this is one of the biggest changes the IHSA has undertaken in some time," Hickman said. "The new policies represent significant shifts in philosophy. The high schools that make up the IHSA are a mixture of small schools, large schools, city schools, rural schools, with countless other variables that make them all different. Those differences mean that no two schools will be affected by the new policies in exactly the same way.

“History tells us that some schools will be happy with these changes and others will be disappointed by them. I commend our board for having the courage to look at the big picture and make a decision that they believe is in the best interest of all our member schools and their students.”