Football: With new class added, Park, Woodbury remain with big schools, while East Ridge drops downThe Minnesota State High School League recently voted to add a seventh class in Minnesota high school football, beginning in the 2012-13 school year. The change could have the three District 833 public schools competing in different classes.
By: Patrick Johnson, Staff Writer, South Washington County Bulletin
Taxed with the chore of alleviating football scheduling problems for some schools, along with attempting to shrink the enrollment discrepancies between schools in the largest class of the six-class format, the Minnesota State High School League voted to add a seventh class in Minnesota high school football, beginning in the 2012-13 school year.
The new Class 6A will include the 32 largest schools in the state by the MSHSL’s enrollment figures.
“There was a task force put together that was studying scheduling issues to start with,” said MSHSL Assistant Director Chris Franson, who is responsible for section assignments. “Teams like Wayzata and Eden Prairie didn’t have a conference anymore and no one wanted to play them, because they were so huge. The task force thought that adding a seventh class allowed them to work with those issues and create a better balance between teams in the same class. Last year I think the smallest school in the large class was 1,245 and the largest was over 3,000. That’s almost unsafe.”
The change could have the three District 833 public schools competing in different classes. Woodbury would be in the largest class, 6A, Park would be teetering on the bubble between Class 6A and 5A, and East Ridge would be in the second-to-largest class, 5A.
Using the high school league’s enrollment numbers for the 2011-12 school year, the largest school in the state is Wayzata with 3,060 students. Woodbury has the largest enrollment of the District 833 schools — 1,715 — which ranks 27th in the state. East Ridge is in a tie with Bloomington Jefferson for 39th with 1,543 students. Park has the 32nd-highest enrollment, at 1,656 students, which currently makes it the smallest school slated to play football in Class 6A.
“We feel like we have a better chance of competing in the second group than the first group,” Park activities director Phil Kuemmel said.
Other schools like Cretin-Derham Hall may choose to opt up to 6A, which could bump Park down to 5A. However, if one or more of the cooperatives programs like at Osseo, Anoka, Minneapolis South or Elk River were to split apart, they could fall below Park’s enrollment totals pushing Park back up the list into 6A.
“There’s not a lot of schools, I don’t think, aside from private schools like Cretin, that would make the choice to opt up and play against Wayzata and Eden Prairie,” Kuemmel said. (Park head coach Darin Glazier) and I talked about it. Obviously, we’re going to play wherever they put us. If we have to play in that Class 6A we will and we’ll see what happens.”
Franson believed the final list could come out as soon as this summer or, by the latest, following the next football season. He confirmed nothing is currently set in stone.
“We also don’t know what’s going to happen with schools like Cretin-Derham Hall and Totino-Grace,” Franson said. “Also, when Elk River saw the numbers they called me and said they didn’t want to be in that class and were going to dissolve their co-op. But, we know we don’t want more than eight teams in a section, so we can have a pure 32 teams in Class 6A.”
After next year under a six-class system, and one year under the new seven-class system, the following year, a new MSHSL reclassification of sections will take place in February of 2013.
Schultz: Business as usual for Woodbury
Woodbury activities director Jason Schultz is looking at playing in the new class as business as usual for his school.
“Nothing has changed,” he said. “We’ve been part of the large school group for a long time. We’ve been anticipating and preparing to play against the top schools in the state. That’s part of who we are and that’s where we want to be. We’re a big school in the metro and we’re going to play other big schools in the metro. We’re OK with that.”
Schultz said Woodbury wouldn’t likely attempt to get out of Class 6A.
“Obviously, we don’t have a coach for me to talk to about this, but I wouldn’t anticipate that we’d try to leave the large school group,” he said. “As far as where we’re trending, I couldn’t say for certain what our enrollment is going to look like in the future. I’m just really trying to keep our focus on the things we can control.”
The free and reduced lunch program numbers play a factor in the high school league’s enrollment calculations when assigning schools to different classes. Based on its formula, a student on free or reduced lunch counts for six-tenths of a student towards that school’s enrollment, due to the lower amount of recorded participation in activities by those students.
Kuemmel said when East Ridge was built the district anticipated the three schools being around the 1,600 to 1,650 range, which would put all of them on that cusp of being one of the small schools playing with the big boys or one of the larger schools playing in the second-largest group.
Kuemmel said he wasn’t surprised by the rule change.
“There’s been so much going on with football and they’ve been talking about it for so long,” he said. “It seemed like they were going to do something different. It makes sense to me, because of the amount of larger schools that aren’t in the same realm of competition like Wayzata and Eden Prairie and Minnetonka. But, there are always those toward the bottom that don’t feel like they should be competing against them. It’s a tough one to swallow for those that don’t quite feel they’re in the same category as those other schools.”
The MSHSL board adopted its decision based on the recommendation of its football task force, which was forwarded on a 13-1 vote, and voted to abandon the section football proposal, which would have replaced a regular-season conference schedule with a regular-season schedule against section opponents. The task force was charged with studying options to alleviate football scheduling problems that some schools were having last season. For example, due to the dissolution of the Lake Conference, Wayzata played only six regular season games last year and Eden Prairie played two games in Canada in order to fill its schedule.
According to the MSHSL, a seventh class will reduce the ratio of enrollment in the largest school to the smallest school to approximately 1.8-to-1. Currently, Class 5A’s enrollment ratio is approximately 2.5-to-1. Under the seven-class plan, the next two largest school classes would each have 48 schools.
As far as other states go, for example, Texas has 12 sections, Michigan and Illinois have eight sections, Wisconsin, Missouri and Kansas have seven and Iowa, South Dakota, Ohio, Kentucky and Washington have six sections.
Franson said, overall the league has been discussing the current football issues for around five years and that the task force has been working at it for roughly a year.
“I think people were just ready to say ‘do something’ rather than just talk about it,” he said. “But, there’s still a lot of things to work through.”
The top 32 schools
The largest schools in MSHSL enrollment for the 2011-12 school year. Schools near the bottom of the list could fall to a class below by another school opting up. Also, schools on the bubble, but currently in Class 5A, could be moved up to Class 6A if the three co-op schools split up.
1. Wayzata 3,060 2. Eden Prairie 3,007 3. Minnetonka 2,750 4. Stillwater 2,670 5. Champlin Park 2,571 6. Blaine 2,551 7. Burnsville 2,530 8. Anoka (co-op) 2,521 9. Edina 2,436 10. White Bear Lake 2,257 11. Prior Lake 2,154 12. Eagan 2,147 13. Maple Grove 2,142 14. Coon Rapids 2,120 15. Hopkins 2,070 16. Eastview 2,056 17. Centennial 2,017 18. Rosemount 2,013 19. Osseo 1,996 (co-op) 20. Forest Lake 1,952 21. Roseville 1,840 22. Elk River (co-op) 1,792 23. Robbinsdale Armstrong 1,789 24. Lakeville South 1,774 25. Minneapolis South (co-op) 1,744 26. Shakopee 1,736 27. Woodbury 1,715, 28. Lakeville North 1,711 29. Brainerd 1,685 30. (tie) Mounds View and North St. Paul 1,671 32. Park 1,656.
Others of note:
33. Apple Valley 1,638
39. (tie) Bloomington Jefferson and East Ridge 1,543
54. Cretin-Derham Hall High School 1,328