New 11AAA division proposed in high school footballMitchell High School Activities Director Geoff Gross feels there is a ‘huge inequity in student population’ among schools in Class 11AA for football.
By: Travis Mester, The Daily Republic
Mitchell High School Activities Director Geoff Gross feels there is a ‘huge inequity in student population’ among schools in Class 11AA for football.
And he is not the only one.
In March, that problem will be one issue on the table when the activities directors from all 11AA schools have their annual meeting.
The ADs will consider a proposal to divide the football class into two classes. The "11AAA" division would include schools with enrollments of more than 800 students.
“Right now, the issue has gone through the Coaches Advisory Committee and now it’s on the table for the ADs,” Gross said. “It’s just a recommendation process right now.
“Ultimately, it will be up to the (South Dakota High School Activities Association’s) Board of Directors.”
The proposal initially was brought forth by Aberdeen Central Athletic Director Gene Brownell.
If the proposal were to pass, Class 11AAA would consist of Rapid City Central, Rapid City Stevens, Sioux Falls Washington, Sioux Falls Roosevelt, Sioux Falls Lincoln, Watertown and Aberdeen Central.
The Kernels would remain in 11AA with Yankton, Brandon Valley, Pierre, Sturgis, Brookings, Sioux Falls O’Gorman, Huron, Douglas and Spearfish.
Teams would be allowed to "petition up" to play in 11AAA if they wish.
“We didn’t create the discussion, but it does have some appeal to schools like ours,” said Mitchell football coach Kent VanOverschelde, whose team was 4-6 last season. “As you think about it, certain opponents of it would state that another class would water things down. But increasing participation, especially at Mitchell High School, would create a new dynamic that allows us to get everybody excited about playing.”
Currently, Rapid City Central has the highest Average Daily Membership (ADM) in the state at 1,727. Sioux Falls Washington (1,629), Roosevelt (1,548), Lincoln (1,495) and Rapid City Stevens (1,147) round out the top five ADMs in the state.
Mitchell is 14th on that list with an ADM of 566. The only AA schools behind it are Huron (530), Douglas (523) and Spearfish (493).
“I understand that we have a lot of classes for football right now, but we have a bigger diversity of student populations in our schools than most states, too,” Gross said Thursday. “Can kids compete fairly and competitively? That is the issue. Not any other reason.”
And competition has been lacking in recent seasons.
Sioux Falls public schools have accounted for the past five 11AA state titles. O’Gorman won two straight championships before that run began.
This past season, the 11AA semifinals consisted of all Sioux Falls schools.
Huron head coach Mike Postma saw his team fall victim to eventual-state champion Washington twice last season.
“I’m definitely in favor of it,” Postma said of the proposal. “The size difference in the schools is such a huge, huge difference. The biggest difference is each team’s depth.
“We played Sioux Falls Washington twice this past season. They only had one or two guys playing offense and defense; we have seven or eight guys playing both ways.”
Gross said he understands oppositions to the proposal, but hopes other A.D.’s will share his opinion at their March meeting.
“I worry about this stuff all the time,” Gross said. “Mitchell starts to nestle itself down toward the smaller schools every year. Most sports, it may not be as noticeable state-wide, but football is an easy sport to see how numbers in your school dictate your success many times.
“People say we don’t need another class. But the rational, in my understanding, is that the reason we have classes is because of enrollment.”