Wisch: IHSA Football Needs A New Title Venue? Well, Let’s Play Two

By Dave Wischnowsky–

The Big Ten is growing.

And it has the IHSA scrambling as a result.

That’s because, thanks to Nebraska entering the Big Ten fold, beginning in 2013, the Illinois High School Association will need a venue other than the University of Illinois’ Memorial Stadium to host its state football finals in odd numbered years.

Since 1999, the state championships have been held on Thanksgiving weekend at Memorial Stadium. But with an expanded Big Ten starting this year, Illinois will be playing home games on Thanksgiving weekend every other year starting in 2013.

(Illinois is on the road on Thanksgiving weekend this fall and again in 2012.)

So, here’s my suggestion to the IHSA for an alternate championship venue, why not make like baseball, and let’s play two?

(Sorry, Ernie.)

In 2010, the city of Peoria successfully sold the IHSA on the idea of bringing the small-school Class 1A and 2A state baseball finals to O’Brien Field in downtown Peoria for the next five years. The larger-school Class 3A and 4A state finals, meanwhile, will remain at Silver Cross Field in Joliet through 2016.

IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman explained the decision by saying, “The movement of the Class 1A/2A tournament reflects our board’s philosophy to try and make our state final events more centrally located based on the location of the participants. With many of the 3A/4A qualifiers coming from Chicagoland, it made sense to leave this tournament in Joliet where it can continue to thrive.”

The same, of course, can be said for the state’s high school football teams. The bulk of the Class 5A-8A playoff qualifiers are from the Chicago area, while most of the Class 1A-4A teams hail from south of Interstate 80 and west of the suburbs.

So, my suggestion to the IHSA is that during the years when Memorial Stadium is not available, it should hold the 5A-8A state championships in the greater Chicago area at Northern Illinois University’s Huskie Stadium (Northwestern’s Ryan Field likely would also face Big Ten schedule conflicts).

And, on the flipside, hold the 1A-4A state championships in central Illinois at Illinois State University’s Hancock Stadium, which hosted the state football finals until they moved to Champaign in 1999.

On Thursday, Hickman said, “We look forward to returning the IHSA Football State Finals to Memorial Stadium every other year, and will begin to investigate other potential sites to host the finals in the years that the University of Illinois is unable to host.”

But there’s no need to investigate too hard, Marty. Just take my suggestion and run it all the way to the end zone.

Do you agree with Dave? Post your comments below.

davewisch Wisch: IHSA Football Needs A New Title Venue? Well, Lets Play Two

Dave Wischnowsky

If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    Aargh, I have tried to post 3x.

    • Jake from da Burbs

      Aaahhh… my comrade in Wisch’s blog posting angst…

      Take heart brother for thy distress is shared by many…

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    I think they ought to do what Democrat state legislators do…..go to another state.

    Seriously Dave, you did a nice job of laying out the issues and providing the answer.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Haha. Wisconsin or Indiana would probably love the state championships to recoup some of those hospitality dollars that Illinois has reaped over the past week.

      Seems to me that if they split the championships up for baseball, it makes perfect sense to do it for football too — but, of course, only in the years that Memorial Stadium isn’t available. That’s still the premier football venue in the state that kids want to play at, outside of Soldier Field.

      And we all know that they aren’t going to play any more games at Soldier that necessary with that turf …

      • Bob Loblaw

        Dave- The Prep Bowl is played at Soldier Field on that Friday, as it has for decades. The CPL and CCL would never let go of that venue.

      • Dave Wischnowsky

        Right. I wasn’t trying to suggest that they should hold the state title games at Soldier Field. Rather, I was saying it won’t happen there, because the turf couldn’t handle that many games.

  • Jake from da Burbs


    Normally I have a thought about every topic you post… You got me on this one. Blame it on a combination of ignorance and apathy about the topic…

    Until your next blog post…

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Hey, if prep sports aren’t up your alley, no worries, Jake. We’ll reconnect next week on something, I’m sure …

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      I covered high school sports for seven years, so I still like to ocassionally weigh in on issues when they strike me. On a side note, the boys state basketball tournaments should still be at Assembly Hall :)

      • Jake from da Burbs

        Hmmm… didn’t realize you covered high school sports for so long… is that what you did for the Trib?

      • Dave Wischnowsky

        No, I covered preps for the Champaign News-Gazette during my junior and senior years of college (1996-98). And then I covered mainly highly school sports for five years after that for The Daily Times in Ottawa, Ill. In 2003, I left sports full-time to become features editor and focus on my Wisch List column at the Ottawa paper before I jumped to the Trib in 2005.

        At the Tribune, I worked as a general-assignment Metro reporter and was actually the third-ever blogger for the Tribune, helping to pioneer the technology for the site until I left the paper in 2007. I never was a sportswriter, per se, for the Tribune, although I did weigh in on sports topics regularly through my blog there.

        So, I kind of stepped away from sports writing for a long time to focus on some other things. But I’m enjoying fully re-embracing that sports side of me again here through this blog. It’s been a lot of fun so far.

  • J-Dubya

    The IHSA finals are over two days. Just move them back a day. What’s the big deal?

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      If you played, Thursday-Friday, you’d be playing on Thanksgiving, in that case. Or if you played, Friday-Sunday, you’d be playing on, well, Sunday, and I don’t think that would really fly, either.

  • Nick C.

    Dave Wischnowsky,

    I would love to see the 5 – 8 A played at Toyota Park, it is a perfect venue for football and most if not all the schools are from the greater metro area. I would not change the date keep it that weekend

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      That’s an interesting option, too, Nick. I actually have not yet visited Toyota Park, but I’ve heard good things about it. I assume setting up a football field there wouldn’t be an issue. Would sightlines be appropriate for a football game, too?

      • Al Kahol

        Natural Grass. Would not hold up for eight football games, especially should the weather be rainy. It would be ridiculous by the 8A game

      • Dave Wischnowsky

        I think the idea would be to just play four games there, and four Downstate somewhere. Grass might get beat up by four games, but it also might hold up OK, too. I’m no turf management expert, so it depends, I suppose.

  • Pat E.

    As a current NIU student and IHSA football official…i would love to see 5A through 8A championships in DeKalb! Folks around here would go just for something else to do. DeKalb and Sycamore high schools have great followings and love prep sports!

    • Bob Loblaw

      They do! I remember scouting Sycamore in the late 90’s. The stadium was packed to see a team that was like 1-6 and the fans still came out screaming

  • Jeremy Wieczorek

    The golf dome!

  • Philip J. Wayne

    Toyota Field would be a good site for the playoffs….Soldier Field is too large…Toyota is just right.

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