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3-class basketball proposal gains steam in North Dakota

A focus group sent out latest proposal to administrators and athletic directors across the state Friday.

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Kindred fans go wild at a buzzer-beating mid-court shot at the end of the first half of their game against Minot Ryan in the North Dakota Class B boys basketball tournament semifinal Friday, March 18, 2022, in Minot.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum
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FARGO — A three-class basketball proposal has been tossed around North Dakota for the past two decades.

For the people behind the latest proposal of three classes, they believe the momentum is finally there statewide to make a change.

Friday, a focus group made up of region representatives from Class A and B schools sent a proposal to administrators and athletic directors across the state.

"The biggest challenge we have is change. Class B basketball in North Dakota is historical, it draws the attention of a lot of people." said Valley City superintendent Josh Johnson, who is an advisor to the focus group.

"I think change is part of the challenge we need to understand.

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"Our goal is to get the information out there and to focus on getting the feedback and needs and desires across North Dakota to consider a three-class plan."

The proposal calls for three classes in boys and girls basketball: AA, A and B. Enrollment sizes will dictate how the schools will be placed into what classes.

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Class AA and A proposal from a basketball focus group.
Special to WDAY Sports

Enrollment sizes of 500-plus students in grades 7-10 will put schools in AA, 170-499 will go to the newly formed Class A, while under 170 will be in Class B.

Under this proposal, the last two Class B champions in both girls and boys basketball would move up to the Class A division (Grafton, Kindred and Four Winds-Minnewaukan).

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West Fargo Sheyenne's Kaleb Larson goes up for two against Fargo Davies during their Eastern Dakota Conference Boys' Basketball Tournament championship game Saturday, March 5, 2022, at North Dakota State.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum

The main goals, according to the focus group, are to increase student participation in basketball, which has been declining in the state. They also would like to see more member schools participate and eliminate the number of current co-ops.

Three-class proposals have been brought forward to the North Dakota High School Activities Association at least three times since 2010, with the latest coming in 2018.

The difference this time and reason for optimism, according to the focus group, is the results of a statewide survey sent out this spring.

Out of 160 responses to the question, "Would your high school be willing to consider a three-class system for basketball?" 137 voted yes.

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ClassB.JPG
Class B proposal created by a basketball focus group.
Special to WDAY Sports

The focus group made the website viewable to the public, which parents and fans alike can see.

"You see a decrease in student participation in boys and girls basketball over the last few years. There are going to be costs associated that will increase, but at the end of the day, we have to make decisions in the best interest of our kids," Johnson said.

The next step in this process is getting feedback on this proposal. The architects of this understand that there very well could be changes to what they are proposing, including from enrollment sizes to tournament venues to television and streaming coverage.

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The Kindred Vikings celebrate their perfect season as they hoist the ND Class B Girls basketball championship Saturday, March 5, 2022, after defeating Grafton.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

This proposal would call for the creation of two more state tournaments, which in this plan, would be played at the same time as the girls Class B tournament and the boys Class B tournament.

The current super A tournament schedule would not be affected.

The member schools have until Sept. 30 to provide comments and feedback on the proposal. If 60% of the member schools support this plan prior to Nov. 1, it will be presented to the NDHSAA by Nov. 15.

Why that date is critical is it's exactly one year before the start date for basketball for the 2023-24 season, which is when they want to enact the plan for.

"If this is not only going to increase student participation, but increase the number of teams in North Dakota, at the end of the day it's what is in the best interest of kids," Johnson said.

Dom Izzo is the Sports Director at WDAY-TV. He began working for WDAY in 2006 as the weekend sports anchor and was promoted to Sports Director in 2010.
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