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Boise-area proposal would take away state football playoff berth from IEL

Idaho High School Activities Association executive director John Billetz stopped by our Coeur d’Alene office recently to talk about football.

We chatted about a proposal from the 10 District III (Boise-area) 5A schools that would take a state playoff berth away from the four-team Inland Empire League. As it stands now, District III receives four state berths. But the schools want a fifth, meaning half would qualify for the postseason.

Common sense says the IEL’s runner-up would beat the Boise area’s fifth-place most years. But it seems this isn’t a common-sense issue.

I suspect District III schools had to blush after what Coeur d’Alene, Lake City, Highland and Madison did to the Boise-area playoff teams last Friday. For the first time since the state playoffs were founded in 1979, there’s no District III team in the semifinals.

In case you missed it, Coeur d’Alene hammered Rocky Mountain 45-0; Lake City went on the road to post a convincing 24-10 win over 2011 state runner-up Eagle; Madison doubled up on Capital 28-14; and Highland traveled to Boise to knock off top-seeded Borah 41-34.

I don’t like smug and that’s the feeling one gets from anything that comes out of District III. After all, District III proposed last year that ALL state tournaments should be held in the Boise area. Thankfully, the IHSAA rejected that pile of cow dung. That would be like Seattle-Tacoma schools saying that all Washington state tourneys should be held in either King or Pierce counties.

The years the IEL has received one state berth and a play-in shot at another berth in boys and girls basketball, the IEL beats the fifth-place team from Boise just about every time.

Billetz understands the arguments from both sides. He has a vested interest in North Idaho because he was a principal at Post Falls. He plans to retire after one more year as executive director, and he’ll settle in Post Falls where he owns 17 acres.

And he is a former head football coach. So he understands the competitive line in the sand coaches draw over such issues.

The District III proposal calls for the Boise area to receive five berths one year and four the other with the IEL receiving two in every two-year cycle. The other region in the state, the East, with five teams, would receive two berths each year.

CdA coach Shawn Amos came up with a proposal that calls for either the expansion of the playoffs or gives the IEL runner-up a chance to earn a berth with a play-in game.

“I can understand equal representation,” Amos said, “but we’re willing to play for it. If they think their five seed is better than our two seed, let’s play and find out.”

The proposals will go before the IHSAA board at its next meeting in early December.

“It could get real ugly,” Billetz said. “I would hope we can come to some compromise.”

Where does Billetz stand on the issue?

“I’m not trying to be a fence rider,” he said. “I’m hoping we can keep the ball in their (District III and IEL) court. I want them to work it out.”

It’s believed that the allotment of state football berths could change drastically in the next classification cycle. Billetz said he’s heard that two of the three 4A schools in Nampa could be big enough to move to 5A. And in eastern Idaho, two 4A schools have grown.

That could tilt the berth scale heavily to District III and eastern Idaho.

Billetz hopes District III will back off its proposal for one more year and see where enrollments shake out.