Let's talk about change for a minute.
Change can be a good thing when the situation calls for it, and when it came to voting for Iowa Newspaper Association all-state teams, change was most certainly needed.
Prior to this season, sports writers from across the state trekked to Des Moines to vote on all-state teams for football, boys and girls basketball, and baseball. Once together, we'd break into groups by classes, and with the help of coaches, vote on the teams. Over the years, the number in attendance dwindled, and it was getting harder to get enough people to participate.
Thus the need for change.
So the INA board voted recently to shift from meetings to online voting. The idea was to make the voting easier, have more participate and ultimately have a better final list of names. There were 105 online voters this year, a positive sign and an indication that there is wide interest in honoring Iowa's best athletes.
However, execution is key on third down, and instead INA turned the ball over.
Through poor planning, a voting system that didn't fit the gridiron, and a lack of attention to detail, these teams turned into a train wreck.
Don't get me wrong: there are dozens of more than deserving kids honored on the lists, and no one should take anything away from those honorees. But the glaring errors damaged the reputation of a team I always took pride in voting on. I, like many others, can't say that I'm proud this year.
There were complete districts left out at points during the voting.
Kids who had graduated were in the pool of athletes to vote on.
There was an instance with a kid getting voted on to two teams.
There was another instance with a kid getting voted on a team in the wrong class.
And one that hit home for the North Iowa area: kids listed at the incorrect position. Clear Lake's Joey Monson made the 2A team as a linebacker, a position he never played this year.
The INA recognized the errors after the team was released and told newspapers to use their judgment in describing local student athletes.
As one of my colleagues pointed out during the voting process last week, some of this could've been avoided by simply editing beforehand. But it was a broken process from the opening kickoff.
In the past, every name for every school was on the table for discussion. A player had to be nominated, was discussed with input from coaches, and then we voted on a position.
This year, players were voted on at the position they made their respective all-district teams. Sometimes this put them in the right spot, but many times not. Or because most all-district teams are voted on differently for that particular district, you had players nominated at simply "offensive lineman" or at specifically at center, for example.
Confusion is never a good element to throw into a voting system with no platform for discussion.
It got worse for standout players on both sides of the ball. The discussion in the past allowed for a player to be considered at multiple positions. This year, the options were limited to honors received at the district level. He's certainly not the only one, but a Belmond-Klemme linebacker, who was his district's linebacker of the year, was only listed at running back. His only avenue to all-state honors wasn't even his best position.
My heart also hurts for kids who deserved to be all-staters who were left out because of these mistakes. Locally, Riceville comes to mind. How does a district champion not have one player on that team?
I talked with a few area coaches in the week during the voting and again on Monday evening. All were in agreement that this was poorly executed, and it’s at the cost of the kids and the programs they represent.
Scanning Twitter over the past week I saw the same things. Dozens of coaches and writers wondering how we got to this point. The Cedar Rapids Gazette, one of the state’s biggest newspapers, even decided not to acknowledge the teams because there were “too many discrepancies.” Writers from The Gazette were at every single all-state meeting in the past.
In its release, the INA apologized and said it will meet with the all-state committee to review how the group can make systematic changes in 2018: "If you are not comfortable with the outcome of the All-State Football honors we understand and appreciate that."
I’ve always respected (and still do) the people over at the INA, as well as the members of the committee, but I wish this was discussed before these teams were put together and released. INA fumbled.
But here we are. Time for more change.