Frequently Asked Questions

of the Iowa High School Athletic Association

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1. What is the Iowa High School Athletic Association?

The Iowa High School Athletic Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that offers free membership to all high schools recognized by the Iowa Department of Education.

We coordinate, develop, direct, oversee, and promote high school and junior high sports and activities statewide.

Our membership includes public and private schools, administrators, coaches, student-athletes, officials, and others involved in Iowa boys’ athletics.

The IHSAA serves as a valuable resource for records, regulations, and statistics, while also supporting the values and lessons of sportsmanship, interscholastic activities, and student-athlete health and wellness.

2. What relationship does the IHSAA have with the State of Iowa?

The IHSAA is a nongovernmental organization which operates under a Chapter 28E agreement with the State of Iowa and the Department of Education. This agreement – as outlined by Iowa Administrative Code 281—36.2 (280) – allows the IHSAA to be one of four organizations authorized to govern interscholastic activities in Iowa. The other three organizations are:

  • Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU)
  • Iowa High School Music Association (IHSMA)
  • Iowa High School Speech Association (IHSSA)

While the IHSAA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and not taxpayer funded, the organization is responsible for creating, implementing, and enforcing codes related to boys’ high school athletics in Iowa.

3. Is Iowa the only state with separate organizations for boys’ and girls’ sports?

Yes. The IHSAA traces its history back to 1904 and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union was formed in 1925 following school administrator concerns over girls’ basketball.

Both organizations currently sponsor 11 sports. They also host the state’s two other Unified Activity members in their offices: Iowa High School Music Association in Boone with IHSAA, and Iowa High School Speech Association in West Des Moines with IGHSAU.

IHSAA and IGHSAU host coed championships in cross country, bowling, track and field. Soccer’s championships are currently held simultaneously.

While the organizations are separated by gender, policies permit select students of any gender to participate in IHSAA athletics, and IHSAA offers numerous services and programs that serve all Iowa students.

NFHS permits one member association per state, with IHSAA serving as the voting member for Iowa. 

4. Who does the IHSAA work for?

The IHSAA works for its member schools, which in 2021-22 totaled 364 high schools and their junior high schools.

The IHSAA Board of Control governs the organization. The Board of Control includes:

  • One Class A Superintendent or Principal from each of five geographic areas of the state.
  • One Class AA Principal.
  • One Athletic/Activities Director.
  • One Member of the Iowa Association of School Boards
  • One Non-Voting Member from the Iowa Department of Education 

The member schools are represented by 25 members of the Representative Council, including five from each of five geographic regions. 

5. Who makes the rules you create and follow?

The rules and regulations the IHSAA follows are created by three entities:

  1. The Iowa of Department of Education through Iowa Code, specifically Iowa Administrative Code (Section 281.36.3). The IHSAA follows Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws to implement the code.
  2. The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), which is based in Indianapolis, Indiana and is the national leader and advocate for high school athletics as well as fine and performing arts programs. The NFHS writes playing rules for high school sports and provides guidance on a multitude of national issues. NFHS offers online education courses for high school coaches, officials, students, parents, and speech and music leaders through the NFHS Learning Center and offers video of activities online through the NFHS Network.
  3. The IHSAA Board of Control and advisory committees. The board has general supervision over all athletic contests and interprets the articles, bylaws, and rules of the IHSAA. Advisory committees, made up of coaches and administrators, review each sport and service offered by the IHSAA and makes recommendations for changes to the Board of Control.
6. What is your budget? And where does the money come from?

The IHSAA operates on a budget currently around $4 million per year. Almost 70% of our revenue comes from ticket sales for postseason events. We also receive funds from sponsorships, grants, officials registration fees, and sales from miscellaneous items.

7. How much does the IHSAA charge its member schools?

There is no charge for membership and entry. The IHSAA offers free membership to its schools and does not have entry fees for IHSAA-sponsored postseason events. Member schools may be billed for requested items and services.

8. Do member schools receive any funds from the IHSAA?

Yes. Schools receive funds from the IHSAA for hosting postseason athletic events and travel reimbursements. In Fiscal Year 2021, the IHSAA sent $1.1 million to member schools for participant expenses, host school allowances, and awards for schools and student-athletes.

9. Who works for the IHSAA?

While the IHSAA is responsible for overseeing high school athletics and activities across Iowa, the organization maintains a small full-time staff of 15 people.

The IHSAA staff in Boone includes: an executive director, four assistant directors, six office and administrative staff members, and three other department directors (communications, finance, officials). The IHSAA also provides an administrative assistant position for the IHSMA.

Countless other individuals and volunteers assist IHSAA postseason events depending on the sport and site.

10. Does the IHSAA help with anything besides sports?

Yes. In addition to our athletic offerings, the IHSAA provides extensive outreach and educational services for students and member schools.

These include the historical and highlighting digital platform Achieve and the Governor’s Scholar program, which recognizes the highest-achieving academic seniors in the state in partnership with the Iowa Farm Bureau. The IHSAA also provides student leadership programming in conjunction with the Center for Violence Prevention at the University of Northern Iowa and is the parent organization for the Iowa Association of Student Councils.

11. How do you set sport classifications?

Classifications are set based on total student enrollment of each member school.

For membership and elections, the 64 high schools with the highest enrollment are classified as AA, while the remaining schools are classified as A.

For sports, the Board of Control sets classifications, such as 4A, 3A, 2A, and 1A. These are based on enrollment from the previous year.

The IHSAA uses the Basic Educational Data Survey (BEDS) as supplied by the Iowa Department of Education for these enrollment numbers, and calculates total students enrolled in grades 9, 10, and 11.

Starting in 2023-24, football began using a socioeconomic factor to determine classifications on a two-year cycle, which considers free/reduced lunch percentage with enrollments. 

12. What goes into the eligibility process for student-athletes?

The IHSAA maintains basic student-athlete eligibility rules, as defined by Iowa Administrative Code and based on the guidelines of our Board of Control and the Iowa Department of Education. Students are expected to maintain minimum standards when it comes to academic performance, sportsmanship, and their overall conduct both in and out of competition. 

For details on the IHSAA’s eligibility requirements, please refer to our Handbook and Iowa Administrative Code. 

13. What does “local control” mean?

Local control is the practice of allowing member schools to institute their own requirements or standards, beyond the guidelines or policies issued by the IHSAA.

For example, a school may opt to remove a student from competition for a violation of local rules, even if the student has not violated IHSAA rules or Iowa Administrative Code. 

Local control also allows member schools to align themselves with conferences and schedule nonconference contests in sports offered by the IHSAA as they choose. Besides varsity football and postseason contests, member schools create their own athletic schedules.

14. Why don’t you sanction my favorite sport or activity?

The IHSAA recognizes that students enjoy and take part in a wide variety of sports and activities, beyond the 11 currently sanctioned by the organization.

According to IHSAA bylaws: “The Board of Control will not consider starting a new sport until at least 15% of the IHSAA’s member schools participate in that sport and, at that time, the board will determine whether a tournament series will be sponsored by the IHSAA in that sport.”

As an organization, we encourage member schools to continue to provide interscholastic participation opportunities for students in various types of activities and competitions, even if they do not currently fall under the IHSAA umbrella. 

15. I’ve always wanted to become a coach. How do I do that?

Coaching can be an incredibly rewarding experience, giving you the opportunity to make a real impact on the lives of young student-athletes. It is important to note that all high school coaches must have a valid license or endorsement through the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners.

As a nongovernmental organization, the IHSAA’s role in coaching is limited to sport registrations, education, guidance, and correspondence.

16. I’m interested in officiating, but I’m not sure where to start?

We are always looking for officials to work games and competitions throughout the state! To qualify, you must be a high school student or older, have a thorough understanding of the sport you wish to officiate, and have the ability to interpret and apply rules.

To get started, please visit: https://www.iahsaa.org/officials/become-one/

17. How do you select officials for games?

The IHSAA selects officials for postseason events and championships based on member school recommendations, evaluations and observations, and officials’ feedback and availability. Recommendations are collected following a regular season, requiring officials to be active for more than one season to receive postseason assignments.

The IHSAA does not assign for officials for any regular season or exhibition events. Regular season contests by area and/or conference assignors or athletic directors.

18. How can I watch my school in the playoffs and state tournament on TV?

Select state tournament and championship events are broadcast through the Iowa High School Sports Network, which is the exclusive rights holder for most IHSAA championship events. Games are available for livestream via ihssn.com and via broadcast and cable TV channels by checking your local listings.

Other IHSAA postseason lead-up events are available through NFHS Network and approved media outlets and schools through the postseason video access process.

19. Where can I find statistics and game results from IHSAA sports?

On our website, the IHSAA provides scores and results for state tournament events only. These are available through sport pages and the “State Championship Central” pages for each sport.

For regular season competition, statistics and schedules are entered by schools through Bound. IHSAA has partnered with Bound for a member school database and for the continuation of “Quik Stats Iowa” which tracks statewide sports statistics.

Wrestling statistics and data are available through TrackWrestling.

20. Do you have all-state awards or team rankings?

The IHSAA does not select any all-state, all-district, or individual awards. Those honors are typically selected by a sport’s respective coaches’ association or media members.

The IHSAA began developing and publishing basketball rankings in the 2022-23 season and football rankings in the 2023 season, which both use committee and consensus formats to rank 10 teams as a guide for postseason pairings.

The only other team rankings currently compiled by the IHSAA are through football’s computer-only Ratings Percentage Index, which is calculated for Classes 5A, 4A, and 3A. Like the honors above, polls and rankings are typically selected by coaches’ associations or media outlets which are not compiled or approved by the IHSAA.

Get to Know the Iowa High School Athletic Association