Do the larger schools in Class 4A have too much of a competitive advantage over the smaller 4A schools?
Yes, according to Rod Wittmer of Holton (Big 7 League president), Randy Heatherly of Girard and Steve Blankenship of Pratt, who have drafted a proposal to split 4A into large and small divisions of 32 schools apiece.
The proposal would modify Rule 5, Section 2, Article 1 with the Class 4A Exception — “Class 4A schools shall compete in two separate divisions for postseason and KSHSAA state competition in the following activities: football, volleyball, basketball, baseball and softball.
“Following the annual classification and determination of schools assigned to Class 4A, the half of the schools with the larger enrollments will be assigned to Division I and the half of the schools with the smaller enrollments will be assigned to Division II. If Class 4A has an odd number of schools, Division I will be assigned one more school than Division II.”
The proposal will first have to pass the April vote of the Kansas State High School Activities Association Board of Directors by a simple majority.
The 76-member board includes representatives of the state board of education, at-large appointees of the state board of education, organizations, middle schools and high schools.
If the proposal passes the KSHSAA Board of Directors, it will go in front of all 64 4A schools in May or June for approval or rejection by a majority vote.
Nine leagues have written letters of support for the proposal — the Big 7, the Central Kansas, the Crawford-Neosho-Cherokee, the Kaw Valley, the Kansas City-Atchison, the Mid East, the North Central Kansas and the Pioneer.
The Frontier League (Baldwin, De Soto, Eudora, Louisburg, Ottawa, Paola, Spring Hill) opposes the proposal and the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail, the Centennial and the Southeast Kansas leagues are non-committal.
The CNC League schools — Baxter Springs, Colgan, Columbus, Frontenac, Galena, Girard, Riverton and Southeast, plus Erie — voted unanimously for the proposal in October.
“This proposal would directly benefit four of our nine league schools that are currently in the bottom half of 4A classification,” wrote Todd Ferguson, Girard High School principal and KSHSAA representative for the CNC. “Additionally, two other league schools are on the 4A/3A bubble and have been classified at the bottom of 4A in the recent past. Our league recognizes the competitive inbalance created by the range disparity of 4A.”
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The proposal cites 1) continued growth in the disparity in the range of 4A school sizes, 2) competitive advantages/disadvantages created by the disparity of sizes and 3) splitting or reclassifying 4A will align the disparity ratio with the other classifications as rationale for splitting 4A.
The disparity ratio divides the largest school by the smallest school in each class. For example, in 6A, take 2,276 (Wichita East) divided by 1,336 (Blue Valley West) to come up with a ratio of 1.70. These numbers are used for classifying every sport other than football.
Four of the six classifications have a disparity ratio of less than 2.00 — 1.70 (6A), 1.82 (5A), 1.61 (3A) and 1.56 (2A). Only 1A and 4A are more than 2.00 with 4A currently running the range of largest school at 729 (Topeka-Highland Park) and smallest at 258 (new 4A members Frontenac and Rock Creek).
That amounts to a disparity ratio of 2.83 and 30 schools have enrollment figures below 400 (Anderson County, Baxter Springs, Chapman, Clay Center, Clearwater, Colby, Columbus, Concordia, Frontenac, Girard, Goodland, Hesston, Holton, Hugoton, Iola, Jefferson West, Kansas City-Bishop Ward, Larned, Nickerson, Osawatomie, Parsons, Perry-Lecompton, Pratt, Prairie View, Rock Creek, Royal Valley, Santa Fe Trail, Smoky Valley, Trinity Academy and Wichita Collegiate).
Three of the four state champions this school year would fall in 4A Division I (4A Large) — McPherson in volleyball, Ottawa in boys basketball and Wamego in girls basketball. Holton, one of the proponents of the proposal, won a state title in football.