OPINION: Three classes back on the agenda for basketball

A straw vote at the annual meeting of the North Dakota High School Activities Association (NDHSAA) District Chairs Committee passed by a 14-2 margin to have the NDHSAA Board of Directors look into a 3-class system for basketball.


No specific plan was presented but the board of directors will be looking into the merits of a 3-class system in the future.

I think this is a no-brainer, and three classes should be approved.  There are currently 21 Class A schools and 109 Class B schools.  Keep the present number of Class A schools, although Watford City may have to eventually move to Class A.  Of the remaining schools make four regions, each with eight teams from the highest enrollments.  This would be the new Class B and would include the bigger private schools such as Shiloh, Dickinson Trinity, Our Redeemers, etc.  The remaining teams would be Class C, roughly 77, although I would rename the classes AAA, AA and A.

Mike McFeely of the Forum News Service recently did an article sarcastically berating the idea.  From his commentary headline, “Here comes another three-class proposal” to his (in my opinion) misguided justifications.

He indicates that in states that have expanded their basketball tournament, like Minnesota and South Dakota, statewide enthusiasm had taken a hit.  I talked to my nephew who coaches in Minnesota and he doesn’t buy that theory.  Years ago Minnesota only had one division and now they have four.  Does he think it is competitive to have a town like Edgerton—98 kids in the top four grades—take on the likes of Apple Valley with 1494 kids in the top four grades?

I lived in Rapid City S.D. from 2004-2012 and followed the high school sports scene and did not feel there is any lack of enthusiasm with their three divisions.   They currently have 17 teams in AA, 55 in A and 85 in B.

He also states; “Here’s a fact, the smallest schools wanting to split into three classes are going to have a difficult time making the state tournament no matter what, because they are the smallest schools.  They’ll always be that, no matter if they compete in Class B or a new Class C.”

No Mr. McFeely, the fact is the schools competing within or close to their enrollment size will always have the chance.  But unlike the private schools in the big cities who can reach out to a larger pool of players, small public schools only have what their small town has for students.  Look at Dickinson Trinity, have you ever seen them with a down year?  They are always consistently good year after year.  Small public school sports teams run in cycles, 3-4 years competitive and then maybe 3-4 years with losing records.

As Watford City Athletic Director Randy Cranston states in the article; “It would give more kids an opportunity to play in the state tournament, and I think that, the opportunity, is what high school sports is all about.”