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Class 4A proposal has up, down side for schools

Published 5/2/2013

Class 4A proposal has up, down side for schools

By BRETT MARSHALL

bmarshall@gctelegram.com

At its April 26 board of directors meeting in Topeka, the Kansas State High School Activities Associated voted 35-27 in favor of a proposal that will split Class 4A into two different divisions.

The proposal will now be voted on by the 64 schools currently in Class 4A. Only a majority vote of 33 schools is necessary for the approval of the proposal. The vote will affect the sports of football, basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball.

For many years, Class 4A has had a disparity in the ratio of students at schools within Class 4A. In the current school year, Class 4A's ratio is at 2.83 (729 to 258 students). Only Class 1A, which is comprised of the smallest 98 schools, has a higher ratio (6.73), but that class has two divisions for 8-man football and two divisions for basketball, volleyball and scholars bowl. Ulysses (457) and Hugoton (297) are the only Class 4A schools in The Telegram's area. Those schools are members of the Great West Activities Conferece, which also includes Class 4A Goodland (275) and Colby (310) and Class 3A Holcomb (256) and Scott City (242). Holcomb was the biggest Class 3A school for the 2012-13 school year in Kansas.

In its current 64-school set-up, Ulysses ranked as the 30th biggest 4A school while Hugoton was ranked 50th, and thus would be in different divisions, resulting in altering districts for football in the future (2014 season due to the 2-year district assignments that go through the 2013 football season) and for the remaining four sports next school year.

That enrollment figure from the current school year would put Ulysses into the 4A-I division while Hugoton, along with GWAC members Colby and Goodland would be in 4A-II.

Both athletic directors at Ulysses (Jason Kenny) and Hugoton (Clint Merritt) see the upcoming vote as being uncertain and close, based upon the narrowness of approval by the KSHSAA board of directors.

"There are definitely pros and cons that will come out of this proposal," Kenny said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "There's a lot of people who feel it's not the right thing, but it's something to do."

There has been a long-standing frustration amongst the 4A schools regarding the disparity of the sizes of schools within the division. Thus, they have been trying for years to get something moving forward, Merritt said.

"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. "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."

Both agree that including basketball, baseball, softball and volleyball into the proposal may alter the way some schools view the upcoming vote.

"I think it makes the vote much, much closer," said Merritt, who like Kenny, serves as the head football coach at his school. "Football has the biggest discrepancy of numbers of players you need to compete. When you talk about schools with 250-plus students vs. more than 700, the numbers just don't match up for football. It's easier with the other sports because you don't need as many players to be on equal footing."

Another downside to switching to two divisions is how football districts would be re-aligned. In all likelihood, Ulysses as a division I school, might end up with schools such as Buhler, McPherson, Circle or Mulvane, Wellington and Rose Hill in its district. Again, depending upon geography, Hugoton could be placed with Goodland, Colby and possibly Larned. If the Eagles were to go the southern route for football district assignment, they likely could be in with Pratt and Nickerson, with Larned as another potential district foe.

For Ulysses, the decision appears to be more difficult with the likelihood of being placed in a football district with GWAC member schools, thus necessitating finding other teams to play during the regular season.

"When schools look at this more closely, I think they'll see the potential problems with scheduling and travel," Kenny said. "We aren't sure how we're going to vote, but we'll do what we think is in the best interest of our student-athletes. It's one thing to consider this just for football. Throw in the other sports and it definitely increases the amount of travel we would have to do."

The proposal 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.

A ballot will now be sent to all Class 4A schools where the district's principal and superintendent must sign the ballot and return it to the KSHSAA office. A simple majority only is needed to pass the proposal.

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