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ESD Conference to remain at eight teams

Mitchell Activities Director Geoff Gross said scheduling issues was the main factor in his vote to deny four South Dakota high schools entry into the Eastern South Dakota Conference.

Late last week, the conference announced Rapid City Central, Rapid City Stevens, Sturgis and Harrisburg high schools were each denied admittance into the eight-team league.

Aberdeen Central was the lone school to vote to admit any new members to the conference. Mitchell, Brandon Valley, Brookings, Huron, Pierre, Watertown and Yankton each voted to leave the league as is. A two-thirds majority was required for a school to gain admittance.

"I don't think the conference is ready to expand," Gross said. "It's the scheduling that's the big issue. Taking basketball for instance, if we were to have a 12-team conference and we played each team twice -- which is 11 different teams besides ourselves -- we'd have 22 games. It'd make for some big scheduling changes."

Gross said he was sent an e-mail by the league Thursday, informing him the four schools were denied. He said the ESD could be changed in the future, but he and many Mitchell athletics coaches were in full support to keep the conference as is at this time.

"After much discussion and deliberation over the pros and cons to additional members of the ESD Conference, it has been decided that we will remain an eight-school conference at this time," the conference said in a statement signed by the conference's secretary Randy Marso and president Gene Brownell. "This decision is not a reflection on the respective administration or schools, as we know the bright future that these schools have and look forward to assisting them in many ways."

Brownell -- who's also Aberdeen Central's Activities Director -- voted in favor of the addition of four schools to the 83-year-old conference. Gross said Brownell likes the idea of having the majority of the Class AA schools in one conference, which would benefit the ESD during annual athletic directors meetings.

"I think this is something that will come up again in the future," Gross said. "But at this time, this is what's best for the conference."

Rapid City Central, Rapid City Stevens and Sturgis were all seeking admittance due to the dissolve of the Greater Dakota Conference, which will disband after the 2012-13 school year.