As the number of Iowa high schools decreases, there was a mind set that changes would have to be made to the current classification system. Four classes was not going to work for most sports. The Iowa High School Girls Athletic Union agreed with this.
“We originally were looking to move down to three classes,” said IHSGAU Executive Director Mike Dick. “The cue to go a different direction came about a year ago from our basketball committee.”
What cue was that? The basketball committee didn’t want to cut down to three classes. Instead, they proposed to Dick that most of the sports should actually increase to five classes.
“We are always trying to think outside the box,” said Dick. “When we looked at the numbers they proposed, the board thought there was definite merit to the idea.”
Dick says that the looked at about 15-18 different options on how to sculpt the new classification structure. The biggest debate was how many schools should be in the new large school class, 5A.
“40 (schools in 51) is where everyone is landing,” explained Dick. “We had some people that wanted to cut it down to 32, and some wanted to keep it at 48. So 40 is a compromise.”
Dick says the biggest reason to increase classes rather than decrease them is to cut down on the disparity between large and small schools, especially in the large school classes. Norwalk Athletic Director Al Lammars says that’s something he really enjoys about the five-class proposal.
Norwalk is tied with Western Dubuque (Epsworth) for the 48th larges school in the state with 564 kids enrolled. Norwalk was placed in 3A and Western Dubuque in 4A because of an alphabet tie-breaker.
“It would have been tough to compete with the Valleys and Ankenys,” says Lammars. “Valley is over 2000 kids, and were just over 500. A 1500-kid difference is enormous.”
The difference between Valley and the 40th-largest school (Pleasant Valley) currently stands at 1185 (2016-831).
“From our perspective, it works,” says Lammars. “Rural schools continue to see decreasing enrollment, and suburban schools continue to see enrollment rise. This will help create more competitive balance within the classes.”
Lammars also sees a positive impact on the communities.
“With basketball, you have eight more teams going, and each team probably has about 15 girls on it. That’s 120 more kids that have opportunities to celebrate, and eight more communities that have reason to be more proud.”
Dick says issues about feasibility of state tournaments are addressed in the proposal.
“Basketball will be difficult. It’s seven more games. But we’d probably start at around nine-thirty in the morning and keep going until the last game tips off at eight at night or so.”
With softball and volleyball, Dick says that there’s enough downtime in the schedule where they’re not playing that fitting seven extra games into those schedules won’t be an issue. He says that this move would impact softball, basketball, and golf. If passed, he says that it probably would get started with softball in 2012. Track and cross-country would not be impacted because those are co-ed events with the Iowa High School Athletic Association.
The IHSGAU meets on March 4. Dick says the proposal is on the agenda and by that time everyone will be “ready to move one with it and go.”
This appeared in the February 2011 edition of the Iowa Sports Connection