Two-division Class 4A vote approved
By BRETT MARSHALL
To nobody's surprise, the 64 schools that comprise Class 4A Kansas high schools have voted to split the classification into two divisions, beginning in the 2013-14 school year for volleyball, basketball, baseball and softball, and in 2014 for football.
The vote, just announced by the Kansas State High School Activities Association on Tuesday, was 42-22 in favor of the split. The vote amongst the member schools had been made possible by a 35-27 vote in April by the Board of Directors of KSHSAA.
Affected by the vote are the lone two 4A schools in southwest Kansas — Ulysses and Hugoton — both of which are member schools of the Great West Activities Conference along with 4A schools Goodland and Colby, and 3A schools Holcomb and Scott City.
In the recently completed school year, Ulysses' enrollment for classification purposes was 457 students while Hugoton was at 297. That would place Ulysses in 4A-I while Hugoton would be in 4A-II. Again, based on enrollments of the past school year, 4A-Division I would include schools with enrollment ranges from 729 to 451 (a 1.62 ratio) while Division II would be from 434 to 258 (a 1.68 ratio).
One of the driving forces behind the vote was due to the enrollment disparity in the old Class 4A that went from 729 to 258, a 2.83 ratio, far above any of the remaining classes in Kansas. Small 4A schools had complained about the competition dispartiy as well, and then began the process over the past two years of getting the proposal to a vote amongst only those affected 4A schools.
Ulysses voted against the proposal and the Tigers' athletic director and head football coach Jason Kenny said the school district's vote was for specific reasons.
"Mainly, because we will be the only school in the 4A big division outside of the Wichita metro area," Kenney said on Tuesday. "We felt that it would increase our travel and potentially hurt our football gate for home district games, because we don't know how well those schools will travel out here."
Nonetheless, Kenny said the vote had been taken and the district would deal with it.
"As for sub-statesin basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball, we will have to wait and see how they set that all up," Kenny said. "As for football, it (change) will reduce the Tuesday night playoff game which will be a good thing. It should help us out in scheduling football as eight of our nine games will be set. All we will have to do is pick up one non-league game."
That game in the past three seasons, and again for 2013, will be against nearby 5A school Liberal.
"Hopefully, we can continue to keep the Liberal game for week one, play our league games (Scott City, Holcomb, Goodland, Colby, Hugoton) in weeks two through six, and then have our three district games in weeks seven through nine," Kenny said. "Depending on how they set it up, whether they go north/south or east/west, we could potentially have some interesting early playoff opponents."
After the April vote by KSHSAA's Board of Directors, Hugoton athletic director and football coach Clint Merritt indicated that the school district's board intended to vote in favor of the proposal.
"It was a good thing to pass the board of directors and now it's in the hands of the 64 schools affected," Merritt said in early May. "I think the vote will be very close. In talking with our principal and superintendent, I feel we will likely vote in support of the two divisions. Out here, travel is just a part of what we do to be able to compete in sports and other activities. There are several conferences back east in 4A that might not be in favor of the proposal due to the travel distance."
Merritt confirmed on Tuesday that indeed USD 210's board had voted to approve the proposal.
"We just feel like it addresses the concerns that the smaller 4A schools have had for a number of years," Merritt said in a telephone interview. "I don't think it matters whether you've got 32 schools or 64 schools, that if you win a state championship then you've proven you've got a good team. I'd be happy to win a state championship no matter what the size."
Merritt did say that he felt that if the schools in Class 5A and 6A (32 in each) would ever sit down and have a discussion about those classes having more schools, he felt a good solution could be determined.
"I've always thought that 40 to 48 schools in a class is about the right size," Merritt said. "But until the big schools take that step, this is the next best decision that could be made for schools our size. Until those schools get together, there will be no support for any other classification proposal."
Based upon enrollment of this past school year, the nearest Division I schools for Ulysses to be assigned to for postseason play would be McPherson, Buhler, Rose Hill, Mulvane, Circle or Wellington. For Hugoton, the nearest schools are league opponents Goodland and Colby, along with Pratt and Larned.
"We don't know whether KSHSAA will go north/south or east/west," Merritt said. "We hope it is east because that would probably give us Larned and Pratt for sure and one other. If we had to go north and have Goodland and Colby in our 4A district, then we'd have to go out and find some extra games and that might be difficult. We'll just have to wait and see how it all is set up. Football, we won't know until October when the schools get together for the next two-year schedule meetings."
The proposal, one that would have created a 48-school classification, originated with the Big 7 League, comprised of mostly 4A schools of Santa Fe Trail, Hiawatha, Holton, Royal Valley, Jefferson West, Perry-Lecompton, Sabetha and Nemaha Valley. The proposal was first brought before the KSHSAA Board of Directors last September. In November, a presentation was made to the board of directors and the item was placed on the agenda for the recent April meeting.
That proposal was approved by a majority of the Class 4A schools, but did not pass the other schools affected in Class 3A, 2A and 1A. That effectively killed the proposal for football. They then returned with a proposal that would only affect the 64 schools in Class 4A.