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Schools to decide on changing 2023 South Dakota high school football schedules

At issue were complaints from schools that field nine-man teams and 11A schools. The board also discussed an oversight in the way conference games are scheduled.

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PIERRE — The 2023 high school football schedules may get a second look after a lengthy discussion Tuesday by the South Dakota High School Activities Association board of directors.

At issue were complaints from schools that field nine-man teams and 11A schools. The board also discussed an oversight in the way conference games are scheduled.

Dave Hutchison, superintendent of the Irene-Wakonda School District, a Class 9B school in football, asked the board if there was any chance of changing his school’s football schedule for the coming fall.

“We don’t have one 9B game scheduled,” Hutchison said. “Not one coach at that level is going to see our players play.”

Hutchison explained that it was tough to get recognition for his players if the coaches at that level don’t see them in action. Irene-Wakonda is in the Cornbelt Conference, which primarily has Class 9AA and 9A teams in it.

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SDHSAA Executive Director Dan Swartos told the board that a letter with similar complaints had recently been received from the Gayville-Volin School District.

SDHSAA Assistant Executive Director Randy Soma, in his first year of creating the football schedules, said conference games or games within a classification are not guaranteed.

“I want to make sure that everyone gets a schedule,” Soma said, explaining that creating a schedule for each school is his top priority.

Football schedules are made two years at a time. For a time, there was talk among board members of having the staff go back and redo the schedules for this fall and for the season after that.

Soma tried to get board members to see the difficulty of making changes to the schedule. “If you make changes, it’s not three schools” that are affected, Soma said. “It’s 40 schools.”

Swartos noted that Soma scheduled more than 800 games. “He was trying to appease everybody,” Swartos said.

Board member Kelly Messmer of Harding County said the board’s reaction to the two complaints was worrisome. He said the board was discussing major changes with the “majority of schools not knowing we’re discussing this today.”

Messmer said some of schools he has talked with are happy with their schedules and will be upset by any changes. “It seems like a monumental topic for a few schools; I just wonder if it’s an issue for the rest of them.”

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During the discussion, board members and the SDHSAA staff discovered that a directive regarding conference play had failed to make it into the organization’s athletic handbook. That rule says that any football conference with more than seven teams would need to split into two divisions with the last game of the season played by the top teams in each division to declare a conference champion.

Swartos characterized the omission as an “honest oversight.”

The board agreed that it was too late to change the fall football schedule. The board members directed Swartos to inform member schools about the conference scheduling oversight as well as ask their opinions about the 2023 football schedule and whether or not they would like to see it changed.

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