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Central Valley co-op voted down; decision appealed but tabled by NDHSAA board

VALLEY CITY -- The high school football careers of Central Valley seniors Ethan Proznik and Dusty Schildberger are still in limbo.

Proznik and Schildberger are hoping to play their senior seasons at Hillsboro High School after Central Valley's program dissolved following the 2011 season. Their first attempt at joining the Burros was blocked by a unanimous vote by the North Dakota High School Activities Association Board of Directors on April 16. The board's decision was based on the fact the proposed co-op violates its two-year football scheduling plan.

A formal appeal of the April 16th decision was made by Central Valley and Hillsboro on Tuesday at the NDHSAA Board of Directors meeting. The request was tabled by the board of directors after a motion to allow the two athletes to play for the Burros made by Board member Steve Brannan wasn't seconded.

Instead, the Board approved a motion for the state's football advisory committee to review its process and procedure of its existing two-year plan and the feasibility of amending its rules to provide schools dealing with enrollment issues the opportunity to apply for a co-op with another school in football on a yearly basis rather than the current two-year model.

"We sure wished it would have been decided and finalized today," former Central Valley football coach Randy Vigen said. "It's still alive, and for our two seniors and our (grades) 9-11 student athletes, there is still a chance that this is going to fly."

Vigen and Central Valley Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Brandt attended the meetings. Proznik and Schildberger did not attend.

It was determined that the football advisory committee -- comprised of NDHSAA board members Pete Moe, Todd Olson, Steve Swiontek and Scott Ulland -- will meet before June 30 to discuss the motion and review its procedures. No meeting date for the advisory committee was determined.

After the committee meets, it will report its findings and make a recommendation to the NDHSAA Board on whether to accept or decline the proposal. NDHSAA Executive Secretary Sherm Sylling said the Board will either meet in person or via teleconference by June 30. Following June 30, the board restructures with incoming and outgoing members.

"I think it is an indicator that the board is looking for a way to make it happen and not prevent kids from being able to participate," Sylling said. "Whether or not they'll be able to develop the appropriate language remains to be seen, but I think they'll make every effort to do that."

The state is entering the second year of its current plan, which was approved in the fall of 2010. Football is the only NDHSAA sanctioned sport that can't propose co-ops on a yearly basis. Central Valley missed the deadline to apply for a co-op with Hillsboro in 2010, and after its numbers declined, the school declared it wouldn't field a 9-man team in 2012, meaning Proznik, Schildberger and the rest of the Valiants would have to sit out.

Olson -- who on July 1 will become the new Fargo Public Schools Activities Director -- asked fellow board members to consider issues like the Central Valley-Hillsboro co-op situation as one of several issues that may be on the horizon for the state, which has other schools dealing with declining enrollments and diminished participation numbers.

Olson suggested an idea in which schools that already have an approved co-op on the books for the upcoming football plan, but would like the co-op to be adopted for the second year of an existing plan would be required to pay a $1,000 per athlete fee for seniors only wishing to play on varsity. All other athletes could only play junior varsity.

"I was throwing out some ideas for 'do we need to have in our policy some way of dealing with schools that run out of numbers before the next two year plan starts?'" Olson said.

Olson also said he'd like to get to the point when the advisory committee could come up with a football plan on a yearly basis, but it would depend largely on how quickly enrollment data for schools could be collected.

The Board was quick to debunk the issue as being classified as a hardship, because the Central Valley players would not be transferring to Hillsboro nor would they be transferring due to non-athletic reasons.

If the co-op is approved, Hillsboro-Central Valley would continue to play in the 9-man division despite its combined male enrollments of grades 7-10 would dictate they play in the 11-man Class 2A division, according to the current football plan.

The second part of the school's appeal was for the Central Valley football players in grades 9-11 become eligible to play junior varsity football at Hillsboro.

The board approved a football co-op for Hillsboro and Central Valley starting in the 2013-14 school year. The two schools currently co-op in every sport and extracurricular activity except for football.

"I'm optimistic," Brandt said. "I think Todd Olson's idea on a plan unique to a situation similar to this is a good idea. I hope the football advisory committee can come up with something workable and I'm hopeful our two seniors will be able to participate next year."

Tom Mix

Tom Mix is the North Dakota high school sports reporter. He's worked at The Forum for five years. He was the 2013 North Dakota sportswriter of the year, an award that is sponsored by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to  

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