October 20, 2010


By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

You’ve got to give the folks who want to change the landscape of high school sports in North Dakota  by going from a two-class to a three-class system for basketball and volleyball credit. If nothing else, they are creative and they are persistent.
For the last five or so years, every proposal to change high school basketball and volleyball from its current two-class system to a three-class system has been turned down.
But every time one proposal is defeated, a new proposal somehow morphs its way back into existence and ultimately has to be to voted on at a general assembly by all of the state’s high school athletic directors and school administrators.
Just in case anyone is counting, a three-class plan was defeated by the North Dakota High School Activities Association (NDHSAA) members 120-49 in 2005. Straw polls of schools in 2008 and 2009 showed opposition to a three-class system. And then in April of 2009, a three-class plan put together by the NDHSAA was defeated by its own board 7-3.
And now, just a little over 18 months after the last plan went down in defeat, a handful of school administrators are once again asking the association’s general assembly to consider passing the next new idea for a three-class system.
Like each of the other plans that have failed before, this new plan moves the current Class A schools into a Class AA category. But then this new proposal creates the Class A group out of the next 40 largest schools, while the remaining schools would be lumped into the Class B ranks.
And for the novel twist, after the district and regional tournaments, the top four teams from Class A and B would compete against each other in a combined state tournament.
What the proponents of a three-class system really want is the chance for different schools to make it to the state volleyball and basketball tournaments. They want to ensure the small schools (the new Class B) will always have an equal representation as does the bigger schools (the new Class A) at the state tournament. While that is a noble wonderful thought, what does such a concept ultimately say about the caliber of the teams that will be competing at State?
While the format of the state tournament is one issue, the latest proposal for a three-class system would also totally change the face of Class B basketball as we know it. Under the new concept, it would be highly unlikely that any of the towns, such as Watford City, which have hosted a district tournament in the past would be able to do so again. Likewise, the regional tournaments would more than likely be situated in cities like Bismarck, Dickinson or Minot.
And then when you throw in the increased travel times that all of the teams will be facing because of being placed in larger regions geographically, the new proposal makes no sense at all.
The NDHSAA general assembly needs to reject this latest proposal. And the NDHSAA board of directors needs to establish a waiting period before any other plans to create a three-class system can be submitted.