The formula to the Minnesota State High School League allowing schools to drop down a class

It’s becoming increasingly hard to run a school in many parts of Minnesota. The state owes each and every school district millions of dollars, for starters, but keeping enrollment up is also a challenge in the out-state and in the biggest cities. The state funds the school districts based on enrollment so it’s pertinent to keep enrollments up and to keep the money flowing.

Enrollments are also important when it comes to the athletic competitions that are organized by the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL). A school’s 9-12 enrollment dictates which class of competition they participate in. In a lot of sports that ranges from Single-A to Quadruple-A which is the case in boys’ basketball.

On March 12, Minneapolis North won the Single-A Championship against Goodhue. The same Minneapolis North that won the Quadruple-A title in 2003 and 1997. The cutoff for a team to be moved from Single-A to Double-A is 200 kids and when Minneapolis North’s enrollment was listed as 199 throughout MSHSL materials, well, it turned my head.

I understand that Minneapolis North has seen better times and has seen, literally, a mass exodus from the school’s population, but it’s still hard to believe that a school located in a city with over 400,000 people could only wrangle up 199 students.

The fact is that they didn’t. North has over 200 students which can be shown via documents from Minneapolis’ public schools websites here and here and here.

How is North playing Single-A basketball then?

Welcome to section 400 of the bylaws of the MSHSL:

  1. h) Prior to any classification determination, schools who believe their school demographics unfairly place their team sports (Football, Hockey, Basketball, Baseball, Lacrosse, Soccer, Softball, and Volleyball) in a larger tournament classification may appeal their placement to the MSHSL office provided that the criteria below is met:

                       1.1 The schools’ free/reduced lunch counts provided to the League office by the Department of Education exceeds 50% of the school’s grade 9-12 enrollment.

This is how Minneapolis North is playing in the realm of teams like Goodhue that come from towns with a population of only 1,179. According to Minneapolis Public School documents, North has only 38 students in grades 9-12 that are not eligible for free/reduced lunch. A remarkable 87% of students at North are eligible for the free/reduced lunch program.

To be clear, Minneapolis North isn’t playing tricks on us or making kids magically disappear to get their enrollment to 199, but they are taking advantage, and rightfully so, of the above rule set out by the MSHSL.

The question that remained was ‘why’. In athletics, shouldn’t a student count as a student? Why is there a need to fudge the numbers based on who can or cannot afford lunch? I asked that question to Assistant Director of the MSHSL Chris Franson and here’s his response via email:

“About 10-12 years ago we had a special committee that looked at factors that contributed to kids going out for activities.  One of the things they found was that a disproportionate number of kids who are on freed/reduced lunch participated in extra-curricular activities.  That could be because they didn’t grow up playing the sports, or had extra family responsibilities, or the costs associated with being on the teams was too much.  The committee felt that it was enough of a factor that we should include it in the enrollment calculation.  They found that on average, there was a 40% higher participation rate in kids who weren’t on Free/Reduced Lunch.

“So the 50% appeal came into play about 10 years ago and it allows a school to drop one classification (if approved by the AD Advisory Committee and MSHSL Board) in a particular sport.  We see a few in basketball, but the majority are in games where numbers matter, like football.    We’ve only had about 20 schools who fit this criteria and are large enough that they could drop down a class.  Most of those schools are Mpls. or St. Paul public schools, but we’ve seen it expanding out into the first ring suburbs like Fridley, Richfield, etc.”

The schools are playing by the rules that they are given, so don’t blame North or ‘the about 20 schools’ that fit the criteria.  The question that remains is should this be a rule, should a school’s enrollment virtually change because of the amount of children they have on the free/reduced lunch program?

You can decide.


Sam Mitchell’s hot take on the media is, well, pedestrian

Sam Mitchell probably knows more about basketball than me. He should, anyway. After a 13-year playing career and being either an assistant or head coach in the Association since 2002 should result in some knowledge. You’d think that knowledge would also include knowing not to insult the media.

That’s what you’d think.

Then Sam Mitchell said this after the Minnesota Timberwolves lost a game where they had a double-digit lead on the road against the Dallas Mavericks who were without Dirk Nowitzki:

“I see it every night. You guys don’t see it, you guys are pedestrians. I don’t see what you see when you have that microphone in your hand and that camera, and you guys don’t see what we see. We see the little things…”

Basketball is not that complicated of a game. In the middle of January, in a game that doesn’t really matter, an NBA contest is actually probably less complicated than most high school games. Middle schoolers could analyze NBA games in the middle of the season, nonetheless people that are around the team on a virtually daily basis covering the team.

This isn’t a ‘I have a journalism degree, don’t insult my people’ rambling.’ This is a ‘you should know better and don’t really have the clout to be saying that kind of thing right now’ rambling.

First off, in the quote, Mitchell goes on to say that people are only looking at the boxscore and not seeing what the young players are doing and improving off of what they’ve been taught. Everyone is seeing improvement, heck, it’s the only thing that’s worth watching the Timberwolves for right now.

Second, if Mitchell is seeing these things, harness them. Improve upon them. The Timberwolves were better in their first 15 games of the season than they have in the last two months. That is exactly the opposite of what should be happening for a young team.

Don’t go after the media when you are in second-to-last place in the Western Conference. You need all the good press you can get. You are 1-9 in your last 10 games. Only two other teams in the NBA have that horrible of a mark in their last ten and one of them is the Phoenix Suns that you somehow found a way to defeat and then come crashing back to reality again.

This team is young and has gone through a whole lot, I understand that, but there is no reason this team shouldn’t at least be close to .500 and shoot an actual three-point shot every now and again.

The reality of the situation is that Sam Mitchell likely won’t be around next season and this will just be water under the bridge, but that’s the problem. Sam Mitchell had the opportunity to succeed and get himself another permanent head coaching gig in the NBA, but is failing. Don’t try to take the media down with you.

That’s pedestrian.

UConn: Showing The Unexpected Can Happen

Things are supposed to go to plan, right? Trusted persons and experts should be able to look at something and say this and that will happen and it will. The UConn Huskies proved that sports aren’t for those who follow plans to a T.

If you are not affiliated with Connecticut in some way and said that the Huskies were going to win the NCAA Tournament Championship at the beginning of the year, it probably would have been suggested that you get your head examined. The same cross-eyed look would have come your way if you had said that in the middle of the Sweet 16, too. UConn simply wasn’t supposed to win.

Kentucky was supposed to. The Wildcats were number one in a whole lot of rankings and polls before any college hoops had tipped this season, then they faltered, but started playing well together when it mattered and got all the way to the championship game. It wasn’t a David-Goliath matchup, but it was pretty close.

UConn winning is the reason we watch sports. We watch for the unexpected. We might not admit that that’s why we’re watching or even consciously know that’s why we are watching, but that’s why we love sports.

Twins fans on Friday sat through four innings of baseball and we’re thinking ‘Oh, my God. Mike Pelfrey might pitch a perfect game.’ It fell apart, but that unexpected had us hooked.

We watch sports for that Brett Farve to Greg Lewis moment in the back of the endzone against the San Francisco 49ers. For the Christian Laettner shot. For Blake Hoffarber hitting the buzzer beater from his butt.

American society as a whole loves reality television because it’s ‘unscripted’ and anything can happen. We know that that isn’t always the case in reality TV, but it is in sports. Sports is the ultimate reality TV, anything can happen. The WWE even proved that it doesn’t always go to script in scripted sports.

Congratulations, UConn. You reached a pinnacle that not many reach and when you got to the pinnacle you made it your own. You made the unexpected happen. Any given Sunday.

Perfect NCAA Bracket Now Means a Billion Dollars

Think you know college basketball? Well, you could win a billion dollars for your smarts. I’m not kidding.

Renowned business man Warren Buffett has teamed up with Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and founder of Quicken Loans, to offer the contest. All that entrants have to do is get a perfect NCAA Tournament bracket. That’s all.

The USA Today says your odds are 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 to get a perfect bracket. That long number is 9.2 quintillion, so if you don’t fill out a perfect bracket, you will at least have that knowledge.

Although the chances of filling out a perfect bracket aren’t great, it’s worth a shot because the 20 closest entrants to perfection will receive $100,000, which has to go towards building a home, refinancing a home or remodeling a home, but still its $100,000.

Another catch is you have to be at least 21 years old and a U.S. citizen, so kids must steal their parents’ identities for one more thing on the internet.

Additionally, Gilbert will be donating a million dollars to nonprofits in Detroit and Cleveland to help education in the inner city which is pretty cool.

The bill more than likely will only end up being four million dollars, assuming no one that enters the tournament actually gets that billion dollars, two million will go to the 20 runner-ups and the other two million will go to charity.

Gilbert and Buffett can find the four million dollars in their couch cushions, so this really won’t be putting a crunch on either of their wallets. It’s a neat deal that will get people to Quicken Loans website and make us further forget about the Cavs actually not winning a championship before LeBron.

The press release was not typed in Comic Sans.

Cleaning the Glass: Rebounding Makes Hall of Famers

Imagine tying your shoes. Your mind didn’t instantly put a tied shoe on your foot. First you put your shoe on, grabbed the laces, crossed those laces and on and on. You went through the fundamental steps of tying your shoes in your head.

There are fundamentals in anything and everything, especially in the world of sports. Fundamentals is probably the second most muttered word from the know-it-all in the stands. If you sit in the right section you might even get them used consecutively.

The fundamentals of basketball, or at least what should be fundamental, could fill a wall-sized list. Dribbling, passing, shooting and rebounding are the ones that come to mind first, rebounding being the one that sadly gets forgotten about.

You can go to any high school basketball game across the country and if you listen closely can hear a majority of everyone in the gymnasium scream “box out” at the same time. If the visitors keep getting the rebound the cry will only grow louder and louder until something gives.

Rebounding is forgotten by many players, because it isn’t as sexy as putting up points. If chicks dig the long-ball in baseball, they dig the guy who puts up 22 a night on the hardwood. If these chicks knew what they were actually looking for they’d be checking out the guy who is boxing his guy out of the gym. The brute.

Dennis Rodman made a career out of rebounding the basketball. It is hard to sacrifice your own point potential to just make darn sure your team gets the ball back anytime the ball goes up and doesn’t go through the net. If you get rebounds, you get results.

The top 14 rebounders of all-time in the NBA are in the Basketball Hall of Fame or will be when they are eligible. 17 for sure out of the top 20 will be in the Hall, that number could go up to 18 if Dikembe Mutombo makes the cut.

The top twenty doesn’t even include Hall of Famers Dennis Rodman, Patrick Ewing, Elgin Baylor and David Robinson.

The best big men of all-time knew how to rebound and it made them that much better players. Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell both averaged over 22 rebounds a game over there career and still found time to do some scoring as well.

Height helps of course, but not every basketball player that is blessed with it uses it to their advantage.  It isn’t all big men, though. The top fifty rebounders of all time is littered with small forwards. Fiftieth on the list is point guard Jason Kidd.

Simply rebounding will get you on the basketball court more. Rebound like a crazy man and you may just end up in the Hall of Fame… and be good friends with a dictator.