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SDHSAA wants committee for state tourney selection process

PIERRE — The board of directors will rely on staff for recommendations once again for assigning the next round of communities that will host state events for the South Dakota High School Activities Association.

The SDHSAA board is attempting to create a new site-selection committee that would make the recommendations in the years ahead. The board, which at full strength has seats for eight directors, would continue to make the final decisions of host sites.

The board wants the new committee to counter criticism that SDHSAA staff members have been too influential in steering events to some sites, especially to Sioux Falls.

But progress on forming the new committee stalled recently after the board lost two directors to a death and a resignation. The remaining years of their terms will be filled through elections that get underway in the next month.

Two other directors will see their terms expire in two months. Two candidates nominated as their successors Tuesday at the association's annual general membership meeting weren't challenged and automatically won election.

But none of the directors-elect can officially join the board until later this summer.

Consequently the current six directors haven't yet established the process and criteria for choosing five officials who will form the core of the new committee.

Three SDHSAA directors will also sit on the committee. But they haven't been selected yet either because the board wants to wait until after the four new directors are seated.

What this means is the SDHSAA staff led by executive director Wayne Carney will make recommendations on sites for the 2017-2018 round of state athletic, arts and other events governed by the association.

The earliest round for the new committee to offer its insight would be 2018-2019, directors said.

Sites are already chosen through 2016-2017 (see chart).

Board members want the change.

"Another step is a good thing in the process," director Jason Uttermark, of Aberdeen Central, high school said during the board's business meeting Tuesday.

"Any extra information we can get before the vote can only help us in the process," he said.

Director Todd Trask, of Wall, however is convinced the events will have to be put up for bids. His opinion is based on the Legislature's decision to make the SDHSAA subject to South Dakota's state laws on open meetings and public records.

The legislation however doesn't make any reference to bid requirements. Instead, the new law was re-written in a specific attempt to avoid that. The amendment's author was Rep. Timothy Johns, R-Lead, a retired circuit judge.

In deciding to proceed with the new committee, the directors voted 5-1. They included a provision that the committee's responsibilities receive a legal review regarding whether bids would be necessary.

The committee would meet twice annually. The first meeting is scheduled for August. The committee then would set the date for its second meeting. The panel's recommendations would be delivered each year for the board of directors April meeting.

The three directors who will serve on the new committee would be chosen annually. The other five members would come from tournament management who already host many of the SDHSAA state events.

No community would be allowed to have a director and a tournament manager on the committee. That means eight communities will be represented.

The directors this week also approved distribution of a public-opinion survey by the Lawrence & Schiller firm of Sioux Falls.

The two versions of the survey will go to students and to parents, coaches, administrators and fans, according to Carney.

The directors received draft copies of the surveys earlier in April. They were provided copies of the final versions that will be distributed Monday.

Carney has previously shown the directors the survey used in Minnesota.

Director Rick Weber, of Flandreau, said the surveys fit with the new committee's purpose of getting broader opinions about choosing event sites.

"It will be another tool for them to look at," Weber said.