While holding programs accountable by the Iowa High School Athletic Association is important, the sportsmanship ratings don't say enough.
Here are the metrics: 20 North Iowa schools offered all four sets of ratings requested by the Globe Gazette and each of those ratings have four categories. Three schools don’t have their own wrestling programs: North Iowa, Garrigan and CAL.
Overall, 356 individual average ratings were reviewed. Out of those ratings, only two strayed above a “2,” which is considered “acceptable,” but not “excellent”: 2017 Forest City football coach and 2016 Mason City football coaches.
That’s 0.5 percent of ratings. No school received anything above a 2.14.
The sportsmanship in North Iowa could be that good, but if it wasn't, there isn't a way to tell. Same for the rest of the state.
The Globe Gazette asked the Iowa High School Athletic Association if there were any schools in the state that received an average rating of a 3 “needs improvement” or 4 “unacceptable.” The response was that since the ratings are strictly a feedback tool to help each school get better, and only schools can release their figures.
Statistically speaking, if any school displays truly problematic sportsmanship across the state in the eyes of the officials, there’s no way to tell on a 1-4 scale.
“Our conference used to use something 1-5,” Clear Lake Athletic Director Dale Ludwig said. “We have since done away with that as well. We found that they were all coming back about the same, things we already noticed or knew about.”
The more games played, the more steady the numbers become. By the end of the season, a set of arbitrary numbers is sent to the athletic directors to briefly scan.
But there are more than just numbers. There's a series of boxes officials can check that detail certain behaviors.
These range from “courteous and respectful throughout the contest” to “use of abusive language/gestures.”
If one of the latter boxes is checked, most athletic directors say that they know about it before the ratings are released. If it's an online system, why can't these be made immediately accessible after the game for athletic directors and coaches to check? Email and fax are both faster than 30 days.
While it’s good to have feedback from the officials, it’s not offering any nuanced information.
If the scale was more sensitive, on a scale of 1-10, the numbers have more potential to fluctuate over the season. Instead of looking at differences past the decimal, athletic directors could be looking at whole-number differences.
As for the checked phrases beneath the numbers: some are too vague. Is "questioned the judgement of officials" something to be mindful of, or just a note to review the rule book? A response box to type specific comments on the game's events could provide more detail.
Every athletic director is different and the culture they bring is different. But if a problem exists within that culture, this bird’s eye view won't tell you.
Reach sports reporter Leah Vann at 641-421-0526.
Follow her on twitter at @GG_LeahVann