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SDSU likely to host next high school football championships

PIERRE — The South Dakota High School Activities Association board of directors got a look at the provisions that will go into a contract with South Dakota State University to host next season’s football championship games on Monday.

Previously the board determined that work being done at the DakotaDome at the University of South Dakota, where the championship games are usually held, would limit the seats available for high school football’s biggest games. SDHSAA has leased the DakotaDome through 2026. USD has agreed to an acknowledgement of its inability to host the championships in 2019. For that year, the $50,000 rental fee would be waived. A preliminary proposed agreement with SDSU calls for four games on Thursday, Nov. 14, at 11 a.m., 1:45 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. Three games on Friday, Nov. 15, at 1:30 p.m., 4:15 p.m. and 7 p.m. SDSU has a home football game scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 16.

The facility rental fee will be $6,000 per day. SDSU will provide ticket sellers/takers, ushers, parking attendants, team hosts, locker room attendants, clean-up crew, grounds crew and custodial workers. SDHSAA will be responsible for paying for two university police department officers per game, medical staff including an ambulance, a lead stats person, lead ticket person, scoreboard operator, a public address announcer, a play clock operator and a lead facility manager. SDSU will collect a $5 parking fee in lots close to the stadium. Free parking will be available in lots further from the stadium. SDHSAA Board Chairman Brian Maher of Sioux Falls said while weather may be a factor for games played outside, he was confident that it would not be too costly for the association, noting the difference between the USD lease and the agreement with SDSU.

Even if the association’s expenses are $20,000, Maher said, “We’ve got $30,000 to mitigate any loss. What I can’t mitigate is the student experience.” The board will act on a contract with SDSU at its next meeting in June.

Combined basketball tournaments get short reprieve

South Dakota’s combined Class AA and Class A basketball tournaments are on the way out, but not as fast as athletic directors wanted.

At its meeting Monday, the South Dakota High School Activities Association Board of Directors overruled its own advisory committee and a vote of athletic directors to keep the combined tournaments for one more year. Both groups had voted to end the tournaments next year, in the 2020 season. Coaches and fans have complained that holding the boys’ and girls’ tournaments on the same weekend and in the same town has taken some of the enjoyment out of the tournaments.

“We’ve seen a drop in revenue from one of our primary sports,” said SDHSAA Assistant Executive Director John Krogstrand. Brookings Activities Director and SDHSAA board member Randy Soma said that a swift end to the combined tournaments would lead to scheduling conflicts next year.

“As ADs, it gives us time to schedule,” Soma said, regarding waiting a year to change the tournament format. “I think it comes down to a lot of us have our schedules set.”

On a 7-1 vote of a first reading, the board decided to go back to the old tournament format during the 2020-2021 school year. As it discussed changes to the athletic handbook, the board also accepted the first reading of a recommendation to eliminate basketball teams’ pre-game handshake with officials and coaches. SDHSAA Assistant Executive Director Jo Auch explained that right before the start of a game, coaches wanted their players concentrating on the game and not on whose hand they should be shaking. Auch said it would be a while before the new rule caught on and that there were bound to be a few hands shaken before the game by one team, leaving the other team to feel unsportsmanlike. Board member Craig Cassens of Faulkton agreed.

“It’s not a negative if you don’t shake hands,” Cassens said. “It’s not reflective of being a poor sport.”

Instant replay heading to high school football, basketball

At its meeting Monday, the South Dakota High School Activities Association board of directors approved the first reading of two proposals that would allow officials to use instant replay in championship football and basketball games.

The use of instant replay would be severely limited in both sports. In football it could be used on disputed scoring plays or to determine turnovers. In the last two minutes of the first half, it could be used to determine if a call impacted the status of the game clock. In the final two minutes of the game or overtime, instant replay could be used to determine if a player was in bounds, if a catch or interception was made, when a ball is ruled dead in a loose ball situation, to determine the spot of the ball, to determine if a kick or pass was touched and if a call impacted the status of the clock. Board member Steve Morford of Spearfish wondered how an official would garner enough experience using instant replay if it’s used only in championship games.

“We’re going to expect someone, in one game, to do this and do it right,” Morford said. “It doesn’t happen on Saturdays and Sundays and they do it every week.”

Morford also noted that an unpopular ruling from a football official in a booth away from the field would leave the officials on the field to take criticism from coaches and fans while the instant replay official is “sitting, smiling and eating Doritos.” Krogstrand said none of the football officials he talked to about instant replay were opposed to its use. In basketball, instant replay would be used in state tournament games on last-second shots. Instant replay would be used to determine if the shot was good for two or three points and if it was made prior to the game’s final horn.

Schools to vote on new activities board members, football rule

Schools will vote for new board members of the South Dakota High School Activities Association and on a constitutional amendment.

Nominations were made Monday at the annual meeting of the SDHSAA. Dan Aaker of Winner and Jordan Bauer of Rapid City Central, both activities directors, were nominated to serve a five-year term as the SDHSAA board’s West River at-large member. The winner will replace Steve Morford of Spearfish who has served out his term. Mark Murphy of Aberdeen and Randy Hartmann of Pierre were nominated to serve a four-year term as the school board member representing large schools on the SDHSAA board. The winner will serve out the remainder of the term started by Pierre School Board Member Paul Turman who took a position out of state.

Wakpala High School Principal Barry Mann was the only nominee to serve a four-year term as the Native American at-large representative on the board. That position is currently held by Crazy Horse Superintendent Silas Blaine who was appointed to fill an opening on the board until an election could be held. The first board meeting for new members will be in August. Member schools will also vote on an amendment to the SDHSAA Constitution regarding ejections from football games. Currently, a football player ejected for illegal contact—helmet-to-helmet contact, a blindside hit or targeting—is ejected from that game as well as the next game on the schedule.

The amendment would call for the player to sit out the equivalent of one game. If the infraction occurs in the first half, the player would sit out the second half of that game and the first half of the next game. An ejection that occurs in the second half would result in a player sitting out the next game.

“Due to the limited number of games in football, it seemed a proportionately harsh penalty,” said SDHSAA Executive Director Dan Swartos. Under the current rule, a player ejected in the first quarter of a game would sit out the rest of that game as well as the next game, roughly a quarter of the schedule for some football teams. Constitutional amendments must receive a 60 percent approval from member schools. Ballots will be mailed to schools by April 25 and must be returned to SDHSAA by May 30.

Open forum runs afoul of former SDHSAA chairman

A former chairman of the South Dakota High School Activities Association used the organization’s open forum to complain about its use of the open forum procedure. Belle Fourche Activities Director Clay Anderson told the SDHSAA board that member schools felt eliminated from the discussion of issues by the use of the open forum procedure. Recently SDSHSAA board meetings have included an open forum at the start of the meeting for people who want to address the board about items that aren’t necessarily on the agenda.

“I think it’s hard to really know all the issues,” said Anderson, who was on the SDHSAA board from 1989 to 1995 and served as its chairman in ’95. Anderson said the current board doesn’t solicit information from member schools.

“I think our feedback’s valuable,” Anderson said. “We value being involved.” Anderson also called on board members to speak up more during meetings as their comments can spark discussions at the school level.

SDHSAA Executive Director Dan Swartos said the open forum was a new procedure that could be changed.

“I don’t think it was intended to squelch input from member schools,” Swartos said. Anderson’s comments came Monday at the regular April meeting of the board which immediately followed the organization’s annual meeting.

“I don’t think it’s working,” Anderson told the board. “You have a lot of disgruntled members here.”

Rally gets in the way of increased football practice

Faced with a choice between fairness and player safety. the South Dakota High School Activities Association board of directors came down on the side of fairness. At issue during Monday’s meeting was a recommendation from the in/out of season committee that tracks season start dates and rules for athletes during and between seasons. The committee recommended changing the first day of football practice to a Monday. It currently starts on a Thursday. The change was immediately opposed by board member Steve Morford of Spearfish who noted that the start of football practice usually coincides with the start of the motorcycle rally in Sturgis. Morford said he recently heard a Sturgis football coach say that 90 percent of his players work during the rally.

“This (change) will not allow the West River schools the same competitive advantage,” Morford said. “It’s just impossible to start practice on the Monday of that week.” Board member Randy Soma, who serves on the in/out of season committee, said the rationale behind the change was to allow players three more days for heat acclimation at the start of practice. Aberdeen Central Athletic Director Gene Brownell said there were more players to consider than just those in West River.

“We also need to look at the health of those not involved in the rally,” Brownell said. West River schools could petition to start practice early “before the mob moves in on them.”

Board member Jerry Rasmussen of Dakota Valley said it would be tough to determine which West River schools are affected by the rally and would be allowed to start practice early.

A vote to accept the recommendation failed on a 3-5 vote. The board also overruled a recommendation to go to seven-man officiating crews during semifinal and championship football games. The recommendation called for adding a field judge and a side judge to the current five-man officiating crews. Finding the officials for larger crews would be mitigated by the fact that during the semifinals and finals, there would be fewer games. Finding those officials is “not as challenging as it may first appear,” said SDHSAA Assistant Executive Director John Krogstrand. “Two extra sets of eyes just helps us get things right.” Board member Soma predicted that after seeing seven-man crews late in the year, football coaches would want seven-man crews throughout the season. Board chairman Brian Maher of Sioux Falls agreed: “There’s going to be a push for seven.” An attempt to approve the use of seven-man crews failed on a 1-7 vote.

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