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Potential constitutional amendment could delay shot clock

In this photo is the opening tip of the girls District 3AA championship game between Mitchell and Pierre March 6 at the Corn Palace. The shot clock is already in use in Class AA. (Sean Ryan/Republic)

The countdown has started and the shot clock is coming to South Dakota Class A basketball, unless a constitutional change spearheaded by the Canton School District in the final hour sounds a buzzer.

Canton started a petition to have a vote for a constitutional bylaw, which would be the first and only sport-specific bylaw in the state’s constitution, to keep the South Dakota High School Activities Association from being able to enforce a ruling to require the use of shot clocks for Class A boys and girls basketball starting in the 2014-15 season.

According to estimates from several Class A athletic directors around the state, the cost of adding a shot clock would be in the range of $4,000-$5,000 per court for nonportable models, plus the money needed to hire a shot-clock operator to run the technology at each game.

Canton superintendent Terry Gerber said his school board believes they should have had a say in the implementation of a rule that impacts the district financially.

“My board was disappointed that they did not have a direct say in a matter of financial consequence,” Gerber said.

The proposed constitutional amendment, according to an email from the Canton School District, states: “The SDHSAA may not enact any rule that requires Class A or Class B schools to implement a shot clock at any level of boys or girls basketball without first obtaining a 60 percent majority vote in support of the rule change by the member schools casting a ballot.”

As of Thursday, pros and cons are being written up on the amendment, and it will be voted on by all South Dakota school districts. The pros and cons will be sent out to the school boards by May 2 and an action must be returned by May 27. Each individual school board votes on it.

The original proposal had both Class A and B schools taking part with the athletic directors from the schools casting votes. Class A voted in favor of implementing the shot clock by a 26-21 vote, while Class B voted the change down 49-13. Gerber said he thought the shot clock requirement was voted down across both classes since the vote was brought to the table with both classes together. When combining the two classes, 70 of the 109 athletic directors — 75 percent — across the two classes voted no.

However, since Class A schools voted in favor of the change, those 51 Class A member schools will need to install and operate shot clocks before the next season gets under way.

“In my opinion, it should be all or nothing for A and B,” Gerber said. “If the proposal was to add it to A and B, should you then come back and split it?”

Class B will not have a shot clock next year.

Athletic directors were the voting pool — not the school boards — and Gerber questions if these voters had the knowledge to cast such a ballot while taking into account the financial ramifications.

According to Gerber, the rationale for the amendment states a vote on financial issues should go to each school board for a vote. Once the amendment has been put forward, it cannot be withdrawn.

Compromise attempted

Last week, Gerber said Class A schools opposed to being forced to add the shot clock attempted to reach a compromise with the SDHSAA to stall for one year.

“We had asked for the (SDHSAA) board of directors to delay the implementation of the shot clock for a year to study the issue further,” Gerber said. “I question if the majority of Class A schools are in favor of a shot clock.”

Gerber believes he has support from other Class A schools after seeing the results from a survey he sent out in January to superintendents of Class A members. He said of the 45 Class A superintendents who responded to the survey, 23 were against the shot clock, 15 were for it and seven were undecided.

“Because of my survey, I was questioning if the way the (SDHSAA) collects data accurately reflects the will of the school boards in the state,” Gerber said. “I am not faulting the activities association. (SDHSAA executive director) Wayne Carney encourages ADs to talk with school boards to make sure they vote in a way that each school district wants them to vote.”

SDHSAA assistant executive director John Krogstrand said there is a long-standing policy for the association’s board of directors that much of the input from member schools comes at the athletic directors conference, where ADs are able to voice concerns and receive information on changes to policy.

“Unfortunately, I think we had a breakdown at the local level, where some athletic directors were voting in a way that did not reflect the intentions of their schools,” Krogstrand said. “Discussion as far as a review process is something that has to be looked at. It is not going to happen overnight and it shouldn’t.”

Jeff Keyman, the Canton athletic director at the time of the original shot clock vote, voted against the change.

Current Canton athletic director Eric Smart said in an email that the school would be in favor of voting the amendment — which the school started the petition for originally — down if the SDHSAA would agree to the delay.

As of Friday afternoon, the SDHSAA still planned to speak with superintendents around the state to try and reach an agreement, but no solution is in place.

“Right now, our board is still kicking it around,” Krogstrand said. “The discussion last week was to let the amendment go forward and that would be the action that the schools could take. But they are still working with the superintendents association and having conversations internally to see what might go forward.”

Krogstrand said the delay in the implementation for one year is still in play, but nothing has been agreed upon.

Creating a slippery slope

Member schools in Class A have voiced concern over adding a sport-specific amendment to the constitution.

“No matter how you feel about the shot clock, that petition should never happen,” Wagner activities and athletic director Neil Goter said. “It would be the only sport-specific bylaw that we have and that’s not right. If we need to have a re-vote, then take a re-vote, but don’t put it in our constitution.”

Goter said he is favor of the shot clock and feels it will help clean up the ends of games.

Mount Vernon activities and athletic director Eric Denning said he is also in favor of the shot clock, adding it is “the natural progression of the game.” Denning said the Mount Vernon and Plankinton gymnasiums will be outfitted with shot clocks for the Titans.

Gerber acknowledged that schools are reluctant to pass an amendment concerning the shot clock for basketball.

“I think it is fair to say it is a slippery slope if we are going to pass constitutional amendments concerning sports-specific rules,” Gerber said. “My board does not want to micromanage the activities association, but when it comes to matters of spending money and hiring event workers, they want to have a say on it.

“I question if Class A and B should have a split rule because of all of the crossover between the two classes,” Gerber said.

As of January, Gerber said only three schools in Class A have shot clocks. Madison and Todd County had the equipment prior to the 2013-14 season and Bennett County had ordered shot clocks and were unaware if it had the ability to send the equipment back.

According to Krogstrand, if the vote is in favor of the amendment, there will be no shot clock in Class A next year unless an movement is brought forward.