The 2014 Illinois High School football season will cross the halfway point this week as teams play their fifth game of the 9-game season. As the season wears on however, there are some very interesting things going on in the game that will have positive and negative impacts moving forward. Many of those things may not happen this season but the near future of the game will be impacted by some of the things that are occurring right now.
There has been a surge in student showing up for football games in recent weeks on the road. It would have appeared that students were staying home on Friday nights and not hitting the road to see their school play but it appears a trend is starting. Schools like Johnsburg have been scheduling fan buses for long trips to Oregon or North Boone. The North Boone game saw over 100 students make the 45-minute ride out to Poplar Grove. There would have been no other way for the students to see the game which brings up the next point.
The last ten years have seen website after website showing live webcasts of games. There is High School Cube that is leading the way along with other lesser sites after that. It has allowed students and relatives of the players to be able to watch the game from their own home and even in some cases, watch the game on their big screen TVs by hooking up their computers. It brings the casual fan into the game.
Attendance has fallen some due to this but the number of people not at the game is being lessened by the fact that fans can watch from home and are doing it. Comcast SportsNet will have all the football and basketball championship games this season which will be an improvement over the IHSA TV Network as well. HD championship games are a long time coming.
It brings it back to football and what goes on in the future. New conferences are popping up as well with the Kishwaukee River Conference and the new 8-team conference that is starting in Lake County. Teams and schools are noticing more and more than they are better off with competition from schools that are closer to them in enrollment. The Johnsburg example can be used again here. In their final three years in the Fox Valley Conference, the Skyhawks went 1-26. This season with a move back to the Big Northern Conference, Johnsburg is 3-1 and could be heading to the playoffs for the first time in five years.
There are negatives to all this though. The webcasts every week are allowing players to get themselves on TV or the internet much more than normal which makes everything into a show when college choices are made. That can’t be a good thing. The positives that are going on though are outweighing the negatives. The final five weeks of the season could prove to be something special. Hopefully, better weather will lead to more fans in the stands and the playoff run is just as exciting as it has been for as long as people can remember.