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Seven-class football system to stay

PIERRE — Here’s the big news about South Dakota high school football. The seven-class system will stay in place for the 2015 and 2016 fall seasons. So will the lineup of three nine-man classes and four 11-man classes.

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The South Dakota High School Activities Association board of directors made those decisions Tuesday. In June, the directors will make final decisions using male-only enrollment numbers to decide where the breakpoints should be for each of those classes.

John Krogstrand, an associate executive director for the association, said he’s getting the enrollments from the state Department of Education. The male-only approach would be used starting for the 2015-16 school year.

One of the directors, Rick Weber of Flandreau, asked that Krogstrand also show the board the numbers if enrollments were simply divided in half.

The board appears headed in the direction of setting a long-term policy for determining football classes. One goal of the staff is to provide consistency so school officials can make decisions on scheduling and being members of cooperatives.

Two directors, Jason Uttermark of Aberdeen and Darren Paulson of Rapid City Central, asked Krogstrand point-blank, one after the other, if the seven classes would remain regardless of what the male-only enrollment numbers show.

“Yes,” he replied.

Krogstrand explained that male enrollment will reveal situations where one small school might have 35 percent boys and another might have 65 percent boys, yet they are in the same class for football.

A point that was unclear was whether the 3-4 split between nine-man and 11-man will eventually change to 2-5.

Dan Whalen, the Pierre athletic director, spoke Tuesday about creating a class that would allow multi-school cooperatives to play 11-man against each other and reduce the number of schools playing as single units in nine-man.

“Over 60 percent of our teams is nine-man football,” Whalen said. “Is that where South Dakota wants to be?”

Whalen described 11-man as “what is known as traditional football.”

Tom Culver, the Avon football coach who is superintendent, elementary principal and athletic director as well, defended the nine-man game.

“Football is football,” he said.

There’s been an “onslaught” against nine-man in the past four months, Culver said, and it “bugs” him that nine-man is being pitted against 11-man.

Paulson said the board continuously faces questions about scheduling, classes and co-ops.

“Football is its own animal,” he said.