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Getting mixed reviews

By Staff | Apr 9, 2009

The North Dakota High School Activities Association (NDHSAA) board of directors is expected to make a decision this later this month on a proposal to split boys and girls basketball and girls volleyball into three classes in the future.

It’s not the first time a three-class system has been presented to the association, and like previous times, it has its supporters and opponents.

Under this latest proposal, schools with 9 through 12 enrollments of 400 or greater would be Class AA. The next 32 largest schools would be Class A and the remaining schools would be Class B.

State tournaments for boys and girls basketball would be combined in all classes. The Class AA basketball tournament would be the first weekend in March, followed by Class A the next weekend and Class B the following weekend.

School officials conducted a survey earlier this year to get feedback on the three-division format, and result were mixed. Jeff Lind, Rugby school superintendent, said Rugby’s district has been neutral in terms of the competition side of the debate, although splitting into three classes under the plan would eliminate district tournaments, and thus Rugby’s opportunity to continue to host postseason tournaments. That is a source of concern, since those provide the community and school a financial boost.

Creating three classes would undoubtedly mean additional travel for some schools to play opponents, and that is a point of contention for some schools. The travel debate really hasn’t been that much of factor for Rugby, since many of its sports have to travel considerable distances for competition.

Malcolm Marchus, athletic director at Towner-Granville-Upham, said that district gave its support for the three-class proposal.

“It’s been brought up three or four other times, and we’ve always voted against it,’ Marchus said. “This time we said let’s try it. Vote for it.”

T-G-U would be in the lowest of the three classes, but Marchus said, schedule-wise, not much would change. “We would still be able to play the Rugby and the larger schools,’ he said.

Joel Braaten, school superintendent in Leeds, said his district opposed the change. “There were travel issues. We would be playing more competitors in the northeast part of the state, and we would likely lose some of our current rivals,’ Braaten said.

The survey results showed 76 for and 87 against a three-class system for basketball. A majority of the support from Class B-sized schools was in the western part of the state. It’s speculated that many small schools out west which support a change believe it would enable more of them to have a realistic opportunity to contend for state tournament appearances. As it is right now, many don’t have the opportunity since they are competing with many large Class B schools in their respective districts and regions.

The odds are long the NDHSAA would go ahead and accept the three-class system, considering there isn’t widespread support for or against it. Some board members have already admitted it would be difficult to change the current two-class system since the feelings of school officials are mixed.

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