We all know that change, whether on a small scale or especially on a large scale, is easier said than done and presents innumerable challenges both small-scale and large-scale.
The Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) announced on Tuesday change will be coming to Class 4A in football, volleyball, basketball, baseball and softball.
The proposal drafted by Rod Wittmer of Holton, Steve Blankenship of Pratt and Randy Heatherly of Girard to split 4A into large and small divisions (32 schools apiece) for postseason play in those five sports passed a majority vote of the 64 4A schools, 42-22.
The split will take effect for volleyball, basketball, baseball and softball during the 2013-2014 school year and in football in 2014. Football districts are determined every two years, unlike the other four sports.
Being a force behind the change, Girard Middle School principal and KSHSAA board member Heatherly talked about his feelings Tuesday.
“I am so excited for the 4A student-athletes and coaches,” Heatherly said. “For more than 20 years, 4A has had a significant difference in the size of schools that did not exist in the other classifications. To expect a small school like a Southeast or a Baxter to compete with Pittsburg is an example of the competitive imbalance that our proposal was based on. As educators, we want to make a positive difference in the lives of our students. Being part of helping not just Girard kids but also student-athletes from Frontenac, Baxter, Columbus and the other smaller 4A schools makes me very proud.”
A few years ago, bearing out what Heatherly said, Southeast (currently 3A) competed in a 4A football district against Columbus, Girard and Pittsburg.
Class 4A presented a disparity between large and small schools more drastic than 6A, 5A, 3A and 2A. For example, this past school year, Topeka Highland Park (enrollment 729) and Frontenac and Rock Creek (258) represented 4A, creating a disparity ratio of 2.83 between the largest and smallest schools.
The Crawford-Neosho-Cherokee League unanimously supported the proposal, all of its 4A member schools falling in the small division. Currently, Girard, Frontenac, Columbus and Baxter Springs fall under 4A and Southeast, Riverton and Galena range on the 4A-3A border. Southeast and Riverton both spent time in 4A in recent years.
Meanwhile, six of the seven Southeast Kansas League schools fall under the large division — Pittsburg, Fort Scott, Chanute, Coffeyville, Independence and Labette County, all schools once associated with 5A.
With a 42-22 outcome, that meant at least 10 of the large division 4A schools voted for the proposal.
“This whole process of facilitating change has been very stressful and more political than I would have ever imagined,” Heatherly said. “The KSHSAA staff was not in favor of the change but respectfully indicated they would make it happen if approved by vote of the BOD (Board of Directors) and 4A schools. In many cases, this process became eerily similar to how Democrats and Republicans stick to their party lines at the state and federal levels.
Page 2 of 2 - “Unfortunately, many schools voted in a very narrow focus on what was best for their own school. However, we had approximately 12 schools from the upper half of 4A who put aside the impact on their own school by voting in a broader vision of how they could help the smaller 4A schools stuck in the competitive inbalance.”
Heatherly, who once coached Riverton to a 3A state football title in 1993 (48-37 over Wichita Collegiate), barely contained his enthusiasm Tuesday.
“I also want to mention Doc Haderlein (R.V. Haderlein),” Heatherly said. “Mr. Haderlein was a school board member for over 40 years in Girard and nationally recognized. Ever since I came to Girard 11 years ago, Doc was always in my ear challenging me to push this classification issue that he felt was so unfair to small 4A schools like Girard. He was always a source of inspiration to keep on trying to facilitate change. Today's vote makes all of those days in Topeka seem worthwhile.”
One difference in 4A will be one fewer football state playoff game, for example, as teams will not have to play Tuesday-Saturday first round-second round games.
Also, with two 4A state titles instead of just one being awarded in five sports, that necessitates another host location.
Pittsburg, with Pittsburg State University and its sports facilities like Brandenburg Field/Carnie Smith Stadium, could be a host site for a state championship game (football) or a state tournament (baseball, softball). As far as back as 10 years ago, Pittsburg hosted the 4A state football title game between Topeka Hayden and Rose Hill (2004).
The split does not apply to wrestling, track and field, golf, tennis, et cetera.