Last week, I was talking to a few of the Rivals.com publishers from across the county and the subject of high school football playoffs came up.
One of the more surprising revelations that we discovered about the IHSA football playoffs is that we (Illinois) hold 'only' our state final games on a neutral site.
In several states across the country, it's commonplace to hold semifinal — and even quarterfinal — state playoff games on a neutral site.
The publishers mentioned several factors on why other states move these all important state playoffs games to neutral sites, such as avoiding field conditions (mainly related to grass fields and poor weather), better fan accommodations (small seating), and it some cases, it limits the overall travel times for teams.
Could we ever see the day where the IHSA semifinal games are played at various neutral sites across the state?
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How about say an 8A semifinal game at Toyota Park? Or seeing some pre-championship semifinal at Illinois State, SIU, WIU, EIU or even at some of the smaller college facilities such as North Central College in downtown Naperville?
It could be fun, right? Play, maybe, two semifinal games back-to-back at a neutral site?
Several factors involved with playing those IHSA playoff games at neutral sites include: more costs, more time spent on scheduling and more organization.
But the biggest issue in our talk of playing on a neutral field? The high school coaches.
Talk to any head coach in the state playoffs. Ask them about the potential of giving up a home game. In the large majority of cases you'll hear a resounding "no."
I've wondered for years what the real importance of home field advantage is at the high school football level. After bringing up the subject of playing on a neutral field this week to several high school coaches, I think I found out just how important home field can be.