While it makes total sense for all of the state playoff games to be played on Saturday this week, playing on Saturday's in general definitely has its disadvantages.
Scheduling football playoff games on Saturday seems to impact student attendance in the stands. Whether it's weekend job responsibilities, participating in other sports, playing in the band or simply have something better to do, Saturday playoff football — in most cases — means lots of adults and fewer and fewer students.
A solution? How about a mid-week playoff game?
OK, I'll admit it. I'm old school. I still miss the Wednesday playoff game.
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Yes, back in the stone age, the first round of the IHSA football playoffs started on Wednesday. Coaches and players would find out on Saturday who they would play, then scramble to get ready just four short days later.
The Wednesday IHSA playoff game eventually ended for several reasons, most important of which was player safety (an issue no one would argue against). Yet what the Wednesday game brought to IHSA football was special: a one time only, high profile day for IHSA football.
Several schools would play a 1 p.m. Wednesday playoff game. Kids would get out of school early and, in many cases, you would have — literally — the entire student body in the stands. I know, I know — how would parents get to a 1 p.m. Wednesday playoff game? Come on parents, you don't have a vacation day or a sick day you could burn?
The mid-week playoff game avoided (what has now become) butting heads against a non-stop weekend sports schedule. From college football to playoff baseball, pro football and so on, the weekend sports landscape is more loaded now than ever. Anyone else remember when all of the major Chicago TV stations would lead off their sports coverage with the IHSA playoff games? It used to happen when the sports landscape was much less congested on a Wednesday in the fall. Coverage and exposure on that day was at an all time high.
I'm also a realist and know the Wednesday IHSA football playoff game will most likely never come back.
Yet I challenge the IHSA to think about ways to get the kids back to the playoff games. Maybe restructure the playoff schedule? Make that opening round playoff game on a Wednesday — or another day perhaps?
The bottom line is this: it's all about the students — and getting them interested and more involved. We need as many students, not necessarily in a uniform, but simply "at" these playoff games. Because without them, it's just not the same.