Trophy Celebration

The Pierre T.F. Riggs football team holds up the trophy after defeating the Brookings Bobcats in the Class 11AA State Championship at the DakotaDome in Vermillion.

PIERRE — After months of study, the South Dakota High School Activities Association Board of Directors approved a football classification system at its meeting on Wednesday. It also heard five classification appeals from member schools.

The seven classification system would include in 11AAA the eight schools with the highest male average daily membership and O’Gorman High School which always petitions to play in a higher classification.

The next 11 schools by male average daily membership would make up the 11AA classification. The next 14 schools would be in 11A and the remaining schools with an average daily membership down to 56.001 would be in 11B.

The top third of teams under 56.0 ADM would be in 9AA; the next third would be 9A and the bottom third would be 9B.

SDHSAA Assistant Executive Director John Krogstrand creates the football schedules. Asked for his opinion of the classification system, Krogstrand said, “At the end of the day, it’s functional.” Noting that a variety of other systems were proposed, he added, “This is the last man standing.”

Football classification systems must maintain safety by having schools of like size play each other.

“We’re comfortable with the enrollment differentials,” said SDHSAA Executive Director Dan Swartos. “We’re comfortable with those ratios across the board.”

After approving the classification system, the board heard five appeals. The Arlington/Lake Preston cooperative sought to remain in nine-man football after being classified as having enough male students to play 11-man football.

The cooperative sought to disallow the count of two Apostolic Lutheran students who aren’t allowed to participate in sports and a student who has health concerns and severe disabilities.

Krogstrand explained that the board has allowed religious exemptions in the past. The appeal was approved on a vote of 7-1.

The board rejected an appeal from Scotland/Menno, a new football cooperative which sought to be classified in nine-man football rather than going up to 11-man.

“We did sell it as nine-man football,” according to Menno Superintendent Tom Rice, explaining the way the cooperative was presented to school board members.

The cooperative sought a reduction in its 58.042 ADM by discounting two special needs students listed in the Scotland rolls but schooled in Sioux Falls and one student who didn’t come to school.

Krogstrand said it’s not uncommon for bigger schools and reservation schools to have truant students. He said the cooperative would have the option to stay in nine-man but forego postseason play.

Rice said in a case like that, he’d have to ask, “Why the heck are we playing?”

A motion to approve the appeal died for a lack of a second and was rejected.

The board unanimously approved an appeal from Bon Homme which had four students counted as juniors who would not have any eligibility to play football next year.

Without the four students, the ADM for Bon Homme would be 53, allowing them to play nine-man football.

Facilities, rather than student numbers was the basis for an appeal from the Dakota Hills football cooperative that includes Wilmot, Waubay and Summit.

Summit Superintendent Mike Schmidt said the cooperative would prefer to play nine-man football rather than move up to 11-man because the 80-yard field at Wilmot is built for nine-man football.

“Our biggest concern is the facility,” Schmidt said. Citing the pandemic, Schmidt said, “We were just thinking this was a little bit of an emergency.”

Wilmot Superintendent Larry Hulscher said preliminary estimates are more than $10,000 to move lights and fencing to increase the size of the football field. He explained that home games are split in the cooperative with two in Wilmot and two in Waubay. Summit does not have a football field.

SDHSAA board chairman Craig Cassens of Faulkton said all the home games could be played in Waubay.

“It would not be a popular decision,” Cassens said. “I understand that.”

Board member Jerry Rasmussen of Dakota Valley noted that the season was still six months away and asked if the work in Wilmot could be finished in time.

“I believe that we could probably get it done this summer,” Hulscher said, noting that more time would allow the district to look at the bigger picture and perhaps relocate the field.

The appeal was denied when no one on the board made a motion for approval.

The Hamlin School District asked to remain in Class 9AA football as more than 50 percent of the school’s enrollment do not participate in athletic programs because of their religious beliefs. The appeal was approved on a 7-1 vote.

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