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NDHSAA may consider new three-class proposal for basketball, volleyball

FARGO—Another three-class proposal for North Dakota high school basketball and volleyball will return to the talking table next month. The North Dakota High School Activities Association Board of Directors will have on its plate a draft put forth by the administrators at Wahpeton and Fairmount High Schools.

Mike McCall, the Wahpeton athletic director, said the landscape has changed so much in the state in recent years that it's time to revisit the idea.

"It's just a matter of the discrepancies," he said. "The bigger schools are getting bigger, the smaller schools are getting smaller and there are schools left out in the middle."

McCall presented the proposal to the state's athletic directors at their April conference. NDHSAA executive secretary Matt Fetsch said that information has already been shared with the NDHSAA Board as an informational item.

The proposal would divide the classes by the following enrollments: Class AA 400 and above, Class A 150-399 and Class B 149 and fewer. The change would begin in either 2019-20 or 2020-21.

Teams could opt to move up a class but would not be allowed to move down. Like the current plan in football, the NDHSAA would re-evaluate the classes every two years.

The plan, McCall said, is similar to the one Watford City proposed in 2016, which Fetsch said did not reach the Board. The new one would put 22-24 schools in the middle class compared to 24-30 in the Watford City proposal. McCall admits there will be a faction who won't approve of a change, but he also said why not try it?

"There is no perfect plan," he said. "There's never going to be. It's no different than the football plan, where that isn't perfect but they make it work. Maybe this is something that won't work but if we don't try it, we'll never know."

Based on last year's enrollments, 17 schools would make the 400-and-above Class AA line and 24 would make up Class A. That would leave 87 in Class B, which traditionally has been the go-to tournament for North Dakota high school basketball and the top money-maker for the NDHSAA.

McCall said he believes revenue from the top-class basketball tourney will not change.

"I think the middle class has potential to be a bigger revenue maker for a state tournament and the Class B will continue to do what the Class B has always done," he said. "This is an opportunity to give more people the opportunity to go to state and I think that's a good source of revenue."

Fetsch said the Board could do a number of things at the June meeting, even pass it immediately, but will probably take a more cautious approach.

"More than likely give some direction on how they want to go about it," Fetsch said. "My hunch is they would want to gather data from the membership and go from there."

The regions in the top two classes would be split between east and west. The east for Class AA would be West Fargo, West Fargo Sheyenne, Fargo Davies, Fargo South, Fargo North, Grand Forks Central, Grand Forks Red River and Devils Lake. The east for Class A would include Fargo Shanley, Kindred, Wahpeton, Valley City, Grafton, Central Cass, Hillsboro-Central Valley, Lisbon, Langdon-Edmore-Munich, Rugby, Northern Cass and Carrington.

Region 1 for Class B would be Fargo Oak Grove, Enderlin, Hankinson, Maple Valley, Milnor-North Sargent, Richland,Sargent Central, Tri-State and Wyndmere-Lidgerwood. Tri-State includes Fairmount, whose superintendent is Brian Nelson and a co-author of the proposal. The NDHSAA board meeting is June 12 in Valley City.

The current proposal for 2019 would have all three state volleyball tournaments held on the same Nov. 21-23 weekend. The state basketball tournaments would be held on three separate weekends: The Class A boys and girls March 5-7, The Class AA boys and girls March 12-14 and the Class B boys and girls March 19-21.

"I'm hoping they discuss it and ultimately decide to give it a try," McCall said. "Like I said, I think it's time. We've talked about it for years and years and years and with the landscape and the discrepancies in school sizes, it's time to start something new."

Jeff Kolpack

Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at www.bisonmedia.areavoices.com. On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.

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