State Considers Restructuring Football Classes

January 17, 2012 / Athletic AdministrationFootball
Rapid City Journal, Vance Janak


PIERRE, S.D.—Jared Vasquez sat back in his chair and listened.

The Rapid City Stevens activities director soaked in opinions as they poured in last Wednesday on what should be done to make football more competitive in the state’s largest class during the South Dakota High School Activities board of directors meeting.

Vasquez never stood to speak when the board asked the audience of football coaches and fellow activities directors. There was no need. When your school is currently the fifth largest in the state, whatever proposal that’s passed for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years will keep the Raiders in the largest class.

The football classification structure that went through a first reading and must be passed at the Feb. 29 meeting will put the state’s eight largest schools into a new Class 11AAA. Class 11AA would consist of the ninth largest school and those with average daily membership larger than 450. There’s also a caveat that allows ‘11AA’ schools to petition up to ‘11AAA.’ If that happens, then the smallest ‘11AAA’ can move down.

The growing enrollments of the three public Sioux Falls schools and the recent domination of Class 11AA by the four schools from the state’s largest city sparked the discussion for a new class. The fifth proposal, created by Huron superintendent Terry Nebelsick, could create a level playing field for some ‘11AA’ schools that are dealing with declining or leveled enrollments.

“Looking at the data that was presented, you could definitely see where a new class could be necessary,” Vasquez said. “I think that hopefully there’s more discussion before the second reading and more consideration.”

Plenty of viewpoints and beliefs were shared in the capital city.

Watertown athletic director Steve Moore proposed creating a Class 11AAA that would consist of schools with ADMs of 1,000 and above. That would put just five schools (Washington, Roosevelt, Rapid City Central, Lincoln and Stevens) in the top class. 

That proposal was something Sioux Falls district activities coordinator Mark Meile didn’t like.

“Whatever you do, don’t make us play for a state championship that has five schools,” Meile said. “… Please, don’t make us play for a state championship with just the Sioux Falls schools and the Rapid City schools.”

Although the three Sioux Falls public schools didn’t win a Class 11AA state championship in the first 25 years of the playoff system, they have combined to win the last six titles. If O’Gorman — a school that has won a Class 11AA-leading eight championships — doesn’t petition up to the proposed ‘11AAA,’ Meile pointed out that 24 of the state’s ‘11AA’ champions would be in the second class.

Yankton athletic director Wally Bosch said the Bucks don’t want to face the larger schools.

“We do not want to play schools that are nearly three times our size. Our enrollment is declining. Their enrollment is increasing,” Bosch said. “Do we have a few people that have been around a long time that would like to stay there? Sure. I want to make that clear — Yankton has no desire to continue to play schools almost three times their size.”

Size has never been a problem for O’Gorman. Athletic director and football coach Steve Kueter said he wanted to stay with three 11-man classes, but asked the board to look at changing the enrollment cutoff number between ‘11AA’ and ‘11A’ to 600. Under the current figures, that would put 10 schools in ‘11AA.’

“I really believe at the (current) ‘AA’ ranks that people like Brandon Valley, O’Gorman, Yankton can be competitive with the top teams,” Kueter said. “I think they’re set up as the top division schools. If you have schools with a thousand kids, they’re set up to compete with schools at 2,000 kids. I believe you can’t include Douglas, Sturgis, Spearfish and Huron probably should be in the other class.”

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