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.


MSHSL’s New Districts For Football Does No Favors For BLHS

UPDATE: Sources tell me that BLHS will be switching to nine-man football in two years, so in reflection of that this plan does some sense sense. It still does a screw job on BLHS and RCW, though.We’ll explore that in a new post coming quite soon.

Hey, Buffalo Lake – Hector –Stewart football fans, are you ready for 2015 Homecoming against Hancock High School? How about 2016 against Underwood High School? How do you feel about traveling just went of Brainerd to see your son play under those Friday night lights? Well, you better like it because that is what a 10 person committee under the direction of the Minnesota State High School League has just assigned the BLHS football team to do.

On Monday, it was announced by the High School League that they have adopted ‘District Football’ scheduling for 2015 and beyond. The claim is that this is to help some smaller schools in the state that were having trouble filling out an eight game football schedule every year. The High School League puts it on the small town schools, but what they did to BLHS makes it seem like it was so that Eden Prairie doesn’t have to fly to Winnipeg, Canada to play another team.

The High School League divided the state up into 18 districts taking into account the size of the school and apparently location. The Mustangs were put in the West District with 26 other teams in the state. The kicker of it is that along with the Mustangs, Renville County West and MACCRAY are the only teams in the district that are south of St. Cloud.

The districts are tasked with breaking into subdivisions, assuming that the district will break into south and north divisions, BLHS will have the following teams to play during the regular season: Renville County West, MACCRAY, Hancock, Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley, Wheaton Hermann Norcross, Brandon-Evansville, Ashby, Bertha-Hewitt, Verndale, Underwood, Hillcrest Lutheran Academy and Rothsay.

If BLHS and Rothsay were to play, one team would have to travel 164 miles one way. By the time the bus departs after a football game the visiting team would probably not arrive home until around 2 AM.

On the Minnesota State High School League’s website it says the following on its post about the districting process, “More than 90 percent of the schools’ requests were met, and a significant majority of schools were placed in a district with most, if not all, of the schools that they now play.”

BLHS didn’t play a single team in their new district in 2013.

The High School League did this in an attempt to even out the playing field, but it really does screw over a little team like BLHS. Gone are the rivalries with Cedar Mountain/Comfrey, New Ulm Cathedral, Sleepy Eye Public and Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s and instead the biggest in-season rival now for the Mustangs will be RCW.

All those now soon-to-be former rivals of BLHS are in the same Southwest district, a district that barely reaches south of Mankato instead of reaching all the way up to Thief River Falls, a district that would be perfect and really the same as what BLHS currently has.

The bright side for BLHS is that in the district placement, they are one of the big dogs enrollment wise. BLHS will be the fourth biggest school enrollment wise in the West district, where they’d be 12th out of 19 if magically placed in the Southwest.

When undergoing a big task like this someone is always going to get hurt. It just happens to be that a couple farm schools down on 212 didn’t quite grab the attention of the districting squad. It just seems wrong that the country boys have a better chance of playing a team on the Iron Range than taking on the kids on the other side of the corn field.

For more on the Minnesota State High School League’s new district program for football click here.(you may need to click on District Football at the top to stop it from scrolling)

To see a map of where all schools in the new district for BLHS are click here.