Two proposals passed last May by the Missouri State High School Activities Association at its annual elections will alter the postseason playoff scheme for sanctioned sporting events beginning in the 2020-21 school year.
One item on the ledger, Proposal 9, addresses the issue of some teams having to play against schools that are loaded with more than twice the student enrollment by creating an additional classification in some sports.
The other item, Proposal 10, takes on a long-lasting debate about the topic of using the 1.35 enrollment multiplier rule when it comes to championship series events between private/charter schools against public schools.
One important note is that these two proposals only affect team sports which include: softball, football, soccer, basketball, baseball and volleyball. Each of these varsity events are likely to add a classification starting in the fall of 2021.
Sports like cross country, track and field, golf and tennis, which have individual as well as team champions, only receive team points. Individual finishes aren’t factored in.
The Monitor-Index contacted activity directors from six local high schools via email on July 2, inviting them to respond by July 10 to some questions about these two new proposals. Northeast R-IV School at Cairo’s Greg Taylor, and Aaron O’Laughlin of Westran High School in Huntsville, responded to the inquiry.
Jason West, MSHSAA Communications Director, provided explanation details about these proposals, and each received about a 70 percent voter approval by MSHSAA members across the state. In addition, all but one of the 12 ballot measures voted upon in May were approved.
Here’s a closer look at the changes in store that will alter the postseason playoff field for Missouri public, private and charter high schools beginning with the start of the 2020-21 school year.
This amended by-law passed by a vote of 376 to 51 will reshape how MSHSAA determines classifications for district tournaments and the state playoff series. The objective of the by-law is to prevent teams with twice the enrollment from competing in the same class against each other.
Proposal 9 will work to make the enrollment spread between the smallest and largest school in each class above Class 1 no more than double.
“The underlying rationale is trying to get schools of closer enrollment to each other participating in each class. “No solution is perfect, but we feel this seem to fit Missouri the best one in ways of implementing,” said MSHSAA’s West. “We will have this 2019-2020 school year to hammer out as many kinks and get as much information out there so that school district personnel can fully understand the process at what’s being looked at before all of these changes are put into place at the start of the next school term.”
West believes there will be few, if any, kinks for school districts to address with this proposal.
“It will be more about our office making sure the information out there for the schools to look at,” West said. “Everything will be based on the student enrollments that are provided by the schools. The way the system is set up now, that kind of information basically is done for them. In the past, there was a lot of speculation about how some schools were following an honor system that schools went through that may or may not have fudged their enrollment numbers to ensure their school did not go up a class or down a class. This has been an on-going debate that some schools have been accused of for many years, but I believe this has been cleaned up some today.”
West explained that based on the number of registrations received for a certain sport, a percentage of the smallest enrollments will be assigned to Class 1.
“What will happen is, based on the number of registrations there are for a particular sport, a percentage of the smallest registered enrollments will be Class 1. For the remaining classifications it will be based on a 2.0 ratio, which means the largest school in that class will be no more than double the size of the smallest school in that class. If the smallest school in that class is 400 enrollment then the largest school in that class won’t be over 800."
West said one concern MSHSAA personnel has with the system should there be added classifications to some sports is that they want to avoid having a ‘watering-down effect’ in that it would ‘water-down’ the state championship finals.
To prevent teams with twice the enrollment from competing in the same class it is likely some sports will add an additional class beginning in the 2020-21 school year. Basketball and baseball could likely add a Class 6, softball a Class 5, for example.
“This why we feel it is important to keep a better balance among the numbers of schools assigned to certain classifications in an attempt to better even the playing field among schools,” West said. “With the addition of classes in certain popular sports offered by most high schools, such as basketball, when it comes down to the number of schools assigned to a specific classification this will eliminate the possibilities of a school having an enrollment of 1,300 having to compete against a school having 500 for example. An extra class will be added to stretch out the field for the purpose of staying as close to the 2.0 ratio as possible.”
A yes vote was handed by Northeast R-IV School at Cairo reported Taylor. With Cairo’s student enrollment being listed on the bottom end of a Class 2 school scheme having its enrollment fluctuate between 125 to 140 for the past decade, Taylor felt this should keep Cairo from competing in districts and the state playoffs against schools having enrollments of more than 250 or twice its size.
″While we are not wanting to “water down” the system & reward too many teams, we felt this would “level the playing field” for us. We haven’t had many instances but the most recent would likely have been our 2016 girls basketball team that lost in the District championship to a Monroe City team that moved up the next year and has been in Class 3 every year since. With Class 1 not able to use the 2:1 ratio, we didn’t feel like this proposal would affect whether we were Class 1 or 2.”
This ballot language asked voters to remove the 1.35 enrollment multiplier applied to non-public schools since 2002-03 school term, and replace this using a point system connected to advancement in districts and playoff series based upon progress made during a six-year period. Proposal 10 passed with 294 votes in favor and 133 against.
“The interesting part about this proposal is that it was originally written and presented by people from non-public schools. There has been a longstanding debate about the topic of public vs. private schools when it comes to sports,” West added. “The MSHSAA Board of Directors feels this new proposal will be more equitable and better level the playing field for competition when it comes to the issue of public vs. non-public schools.”
The five member committee made up of non-public school athletic directors consisted of persons of private schools within the St. Louis metro area. They are Chad Masters, who recently resigned at Father Tolton Regional Catholic School in Columbia to become football coach at Vianney High School and Terry Cochran of Vianney, Doug Kuhlman of Lutheran St. Charles, Jen Brooks of Ursuline, and Nick Gianino of Ladue.
Over the course of two-to-three years this committee studied systems used by neighboring states and used some of those ideas into creating what they believe would better fit MSHSAA’s approach.
What makes the new proposal different is the length of time applied to the postseason points. Some states set it at two years others up to four.
West said the committee learned of a potential drawback to those time frames is one talented class of athletes can come through a school, rack up a significant number of points, then graduate only to ‘punish’ the current group of student athletes by bumping them up to a higher class based upon that short-term prior achievement.
In some states, the placement of any given sport to a higher classification affected that of other sports within the school district, regardless of its recent success factor.
For example, if a girls volleyball program has had a string of seasons reaching the championship finals and winning many games, not only would it be bumped up a class but also the girls softball program despite it had been struggling and won no more than a handful of games during the same span of time that the volleyball program has been very successful.
Committee members believed this model scheme would not best suit that of MSHSAA, and chose to modify other state’s systems to include a 6-year span of championship study for any given sport and keep it gender specific as well.
One sport’s success will not affect another sport. So it would be possible for a boys and girls basketball team from the same school to end up in different classes
Replacing the 1.35 multiplier, starting with the 2020-2021 school year, will be a playoff points system designed to provide competitive equity between private and public schools.
West said the MSHSAA Board of Directors will finalize the details of the new point system in September.
However, the proposed point system is expected to work as followed: A district title will be worth one point, quarterfinal victory two points, semifinal victories three points, and state championship four points. Total points over the last six years determine if a non-public school moves up one or two classes.
The points are not cumulative during a single season said West. A state champion receives four points, not a total of 10 for its victories along the way.
The points accumulated over the six-year period determine whether the private or charter school’s team moves up one classification or two. No team will move up more than two classifications from its raw enrollment explained West.
On behalf of the Westran School District, O’Laughlin said this change arrives at no surprise as there has been many concerns raised about the equity between public vs. non-public schools in athletic competition.
“It will be interesting to see the effects of the new Championship Factor versus the 1.35 multiplier that’s been used. Our district is interested in seeing the outcome of this new rule change,” O’Laughlin said. “I am also personally interested to see if it benefits private and charter schools by allowing them to win championships in more than one classification.”
Taylor, of Cairo, said his school district personnel did not have strong feelings either way on this proposal.
“For the 3 team-only sports Cairo participates in (basketball, baseball & softball), baseball has had a private school (Valle Catholic) dominate in Class 2 winning the state championship 3 of the past 4 years before being upset this spring in the sectionals.The 1.35 multiplier isn’t working in this instance and the point system proposal could potentially force them to move up a class if they continued to dominate,” Taylor said. “This obviously could be the case for a public school as well. We also felt that there are some private schools forced to move up a class because of the multiplier and they struggle to compete. We think the new proposal is interesting and hopefully will benefit more schools.”
Taylor said If given the option, Cairo’s school district probably would actually be in favor of doing both- continuing with the 1.35 multiplier and adding the new proposal.
The 2019 Annual MSHSAA Election had 11 of 12 amendments being passed. All proposals passed have taken effect immediately except Nos. 9 and 10 which will become effective July 1, 2020.
The only defeated ballot item was Proposal 7, which would have increased the maximum number of events for junior high speech teams from five dates to seven during a school year. Few members chose to vote on this item as it failed 13 to 7.
Here’s a look at the other nine proposals, of which all passed by decisive margins.
Proposal 1 alters the application deadline from May 1 to April 1 for schools to be considered for MSHSAA membership the following year.
Proposal 2 establishes a new procedure for setting sports-specific and activity-specific enrollment maximums for cooperative sponsorship eligibility. It also allows three schools to co-op in team sports.
Proposal 3 allows a physical exam certified by a medical professional to be valid for the duration of two years from date issued.
Proposal 4 reduces the maximum number of wrestling matches an individual wrestler may participate in during the season as well as prior to the district tournament, from 50 to 45 matches, excluding forfeits.
Proposal 5 increases game limitation for fall and spring softball from 14 games to 16.
Proposal 6 increases game limitation for fall and spring baseball from 14 games to 16.
Proposal 8 defines a school’s dance season.
Proposal 11 removes the stated fine of $25 from the by-law language for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Proposal 12 removes the $15 fee that was required to file charges.