TOPEKA — The Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) voted in favor of changing the classification of schools which will make a large impact on playoff format.
Among other residual effects, the changes erase divisions between 4A-D1 and 4A-DII and 2A-1A.
“We listened for a long time to determine what the issues were,” KSHSAA committee co-chairman Bill Faflick said. “We also asked the schools what their biggest issues were and the issue they thought was most important in classification was the ratio of the largest school within a class to the smallest school within a class.”
Schools previously in 4A-DI will stay in 4A, while the schools classified in 4A-DII will be placed in 3A. The same will be true of 2A and 1A.
Starting next year, there will be 32 teams within 6A, 5A and 4A, while 3A and 2A will have 48 teams and 1A will have 35 teams.
“In the 4A classification, there was a significant difference, in that the largest schools were about twice the size of the smaller schools in the class,” Faflick said. “We had 64 schools in 4A, and when you have 64 schools in that enrollment range, that separation is possible. That’s why we there was a push to divide it into 4A DI and 4A DII a few years ago. So, trying to reduce that ratio was important, the number of kids in each class was important and the number of schools in each class was important.”
As for local schools, Pittsburg will drop to 4A, Frontenac and Girard will drop to 3A and St. Mary’s-Colgan will compete in 1A.
“We, as a committee, felt like this was the very best proposal that we could take forward,” Faflick said. “Of course, there’s no perfect system and it wasn’t easy to get to that point. If it was easy, we would have done it a long time ago. The process did work because it involved input from different schools and it took time for people to listen, review to provide feedback back to us.”
Playoff scheduling was the main reason KSHSAA felt it was important to revamp the system to begin with.
“We also wanted to look at how many rounds you have to play in to get to a championship and ask how we should balance that out so we can do that in a decent amount of time,” Faflick said. “We don’t want to keep kids out of school by having extended playoffs because that costs kids instructional time in the classroom. The reason they’re in school is to be student-athletes. They are students first.”
In general, the changes will affect the playoffs in sports across the board, but football will receive an additional change to the regular season.
Moving forward, weeks one through three will be league games and districts will begin in week four.
“What it essentially has done regarding football is eliminate our league,” FHS athletic director Paul Colton said. “I can’t speak for the other athletic directors in the area, but I’m not pleased because St. Mary’s, Girard and Riverton will be put in a district that goes north. Those two schools will not be able to play more than three league games because of the playoff system that they’ve come up with. It won’t affect any other sport as far as league play, but it has essentially destroyed the CNC football league.”
For PHS, being independent in football puts the Purple Dragons in a unique position
“It really caught me by surprise,” PHS head football coach Tom Nickelson said. “I really didn’t think we were going to be close to dropping, but it is what it is. Good football is good football regardless of whether you’re 5A or 4A, so it really doesn’t matter that much to us. We set up our schedule just like we would if we were 5A. Arguably the best team in the state plays in 4A in Bishop Miege, so it’s not any easier, it’s just different names.”
The debate will be ongoing, as KSHSAA continuously looks to improve the system.
“This isn’t a new topic,” Faflick said. “We’ve looked at classifications again and again. There were concerns about how we would address it, but we believe this comprehensive look was very thorough and will hopefully serve our schools well for a number of years.”
— Jordan Buckamneer is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @jbuckamneer.