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SDHSAA continues work on recruiting officials, mitigating tourney costs

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PIERRE — As a new year began for the South Dakota High School Activities Association’s board of directors, it decided to continue the work it started in the past year on the recruitment of officials and a study of the costs endured by schools that host state tournaments.

SDHSAA Executive Director Dan Swartos said the study of postseason management fees would need to continue since the association only has one year of data from member schools. That data fluctuates wildly.

Swartos said some schools invest heavily in hospitality, while others spend very little. Some schools counted the cost of hiring substitute teachers who fill in for teachers who work the state tournaments, while others did not count that expense. The data collected from schools shows that one school netted $3,000 hosting a state event while another lost $25,000.

Fees paid to schools to host state events vary by event from $200 for oral interpretation to $50,000 for the state football tournament. Those fees are separate from the costs the association incurs when it rents a venue like the Premier Center in Sioux Falls or the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. Hosting state events can be good for the local economy, Swartos said, but the association would like to find a way to mitigate the costs for schools who host the events.

“The only way to mitigate that is a bid process,” Swartos said.

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In that process, a community would bid to host a tournament, paying the association a certain amount and keeping any additional revenue.

While such an arrangement would be good for school districts, Swartos predicted that some critics would say, “This is geared toward just one city.”

Bidding “would be a real difference in how we operate state events right now,” said board member Brian Maher of Sioux Falls, the city that would likely hold the upper hand on attracting tournaments in a bid process. “That’s the primary way we could generate more revenue.”

Board member David Planteen of Langford asked if communities were likely to turn their backs on fine arts events if they didn’t get the bid on a state basketball tournament.

Maher, who served on the Nebraska activities association board, said in that state Omaha and Lincoln were likely to get the bid on any tournament they wanted to host. Many tournaments were hosted in Lincoln, Maher said, because students like to have their tournaments at the University of Nebraska campus.

Smaller Nebraska communities were always competing for events like the one-act play competition, Maher said. “Communities want these events.”

Swartos noted that the sales of T-shirts at state tournament venues totaled $27,000 in the last school year. He said in the past, in order to keep that revenue local, the association has turned down offers of $50,000 and $80,000 per year to run state tournament T-shirt sales.

Swartos said it may make more sense to bid out the T-shirt business and send the extra money to school districts. Currently the only way the association can increase the revenue it passes on to member schools is to increase attendance at state events, increase ticket prices or seek a sixth corporate partner. Planteen cautioned against seeking another corporate contributor.

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“We don’t want to water that down,” Planteen said of the corporate contributors. “That doesn’t make sense to me.”

The study of costs to member schools will continue into the next year, as will work on the board’s goal of attracting more officials.

Swartos said the main reasons officials quit working games is abuse from fans and coaches, time away from work and families, and frustration at not getting to officiate more contests.

Geography is one of the biggest challenges the association faces according to SDHSAA Assistant Executive Director John Krogstrand. He said most officials are located in the Sioux Falls and Rapid City areas with a lack of officials from the James River to Wall. As an example, he said a new basketball referee in Sioux Falls might work one or two varsity games a year. Last year a new baseball umpire in Pierre worked 32 varsity games.

“There’s nobody else out there,” Krogstrand said.

In addition to the recruitment of officials and the study of mitigating state tournament costs, board chairman Moe Ruesink of Sioux Valley challenged the SDHSAA staff to offer some additional goals at the board’s November meeting.

Two schools seek membership in activities association

Next year, there will be a new high school in South Dakota.

On Thursday, the school’s superintendent briefed the South Dakota High School Activities Association board of directors about the school and its desire for membership in SDHSAA.

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Anthony Fairbanks will be the superintendent of the new school, Lakota Tech High School, located 5 miles east of Pine Ridge. The school will be an addition to the Oglala Lakota County School District which serves 1,800 students in four pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade schools and a virtual high school. Fairbanks told the board that Lakota Tech High School will have a capacity for 400 students and will be ready to serve students in 2020.

“Next fall we’d like to start,” Fairbanks said.

Swartos said once the local school board approves a resolution to join the association, work can begin on scheduling and classifying the school’s teams.

Fairbanks said the new school hopes to field teams in girls’ and boys’ basketball, cross country and track and field as well as girls’ volleyball. The school district is also interested in offering football, Fairbanks said, but that may have to wait until the 2021 school year. Fairbanks noted that Lakota Tech High School is the United States’ first and only career technical education high school within an Indian reservation. The school will help students develop workforce skills in business, health sciences, public service, science and technology and industrial arts.

As part of its consent agenda, the board also accepted for membership the Wessington Springs Cyber High School. It also granted a cooperative agreement between the cyber high school and Wessington Springs High School in the sports of volleyball, cross country, boys’ and girls’ basketball, track and field and golf. While consent agenda items are usually approved without comment, some board members expressed concerns about the fact that while cyber high school students might not reside within the school district, they would still be eligible to compete in Wessington Springs’ varsity sports.

Krogstrand said the Wessington Springs School District has some cyber school students who live in the district and want a chance to compete in activities.

“It’s not a recruiting kick” for the district, Krogstrand said.

Allowing students who don’t reside in a school district eligibility to compete in varsity sports“ could have long-range consequences, ”according to board member Jerry Rasmussen of Dakota Valley.

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