Board to vote on five-class football proposal despite AD rejection

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PIERRE -- South Dakota athletic directors did not vote in favor of moving from a seven-class high school football team to five classes.

The state’s ADs voted 77-58 against the proposal -- with multiple votes from co-ops -- and 46-60 overall during their annual conference in March. The proposal brought forward by the football advisory committee reduced 11-man divisions to three and nine-man divisions to two.

Class 11AA would feature the nine largest schools for the next two-year cycle beginning in 2021 and would likely feature Sioux Falls Jefferson and Sioux Falls O’Gorman. Class 11A would take the next 16 schools per male average daily membership and Class 11B would take the remaining schools with an ADM of 56 or higher. The nine-man teams would then be divided into two classes.

Despite the negative vote count, the South Dakota High School Activities Association is still prepared to recommend the proposal be passed during its first reading by the board of directors on April 21.

“Any time there’s conversation about reducing classifications, it’s probably realistic to think the vote is going to be in the negative,” SDHSAA assistant executive director John Krogstrand said. “A lot of times, the vote from each school has nothing to do with the proposal, but in some cases -- not all -- it’s about, ‘What can this do for me?’ I don’t know that there is a majority of ADs, coaches or anybody that feels seven classifications of football is necessarily what we need.”


A majority of the dissent came from nine-man schools, which voted 18-36, while 11-man schools voted 28-24 in favor of the new proposal. Current Class 11AAA schools voted 7-3 in favor, while 11AA schools were 6-2 in favor and Class 11A was a 7-7 split. Meanwhile, Class 11B schools were opposed 8-12.

At the nine-man levels, 9AA voted 6-12 against, while 9A was opposed 6-10 and 9B was 6-14 against the proposal. Many of those nine-man schools felt change was proposed more so for 11-man schools. SDHSAA bylaws state when the number of nine-man teams falls to 64, it automatically drops from three classes to two, and even though there were 68 teams last season, many were not ready to make a decision now.

“If you take a class out, you’re going to have more teams at the bottom where if they haven’t made the playoffs in a three-class system, a lot of them are going to feel they’ll never get a chance,” said Pat Ruml, Howard activities director and football coach. “I think there are a lot of kids that won’t play. Maybe I’m thinking ahead on this. But having (the All Nations Conference), it got more participation because they get to play against equal talent.”

Meanwhile, if the board takes no action on the proposal, it could lead scheduling ramifications for the 2021 and 2022 cycle with 11-man teams. Krogstrand said some of the Class 11AA schools have refused to play against Class 11AAA schools because of the size discrepancy.

There have been discussions about the cut-off line between 11-man and nine-man classes as well, as well as a six-class system. Regardless, Krogstrand believes change must be made to adapt to the shift in school sizes at each level.

“Something has to change at the meeting,” Krogstrand said. “... All of those things coming together is going to provide some challenges without any action. Essentially, I’m going to have to choose which rule to break without some action and guidance by that board. That’s where we have to come to some resolution at this meeting.”

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