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Group takes another look at 3-class system for basketball, volleyball

Another plan to create three classes for high school basketball and volleyball in North Dakota is on its way. This time, it's a new twist on an old favorite. Representatives from a group of 13 school districts from all parts of the state are sche...

Another plan to create three classes for high school basketball and volleyball in North Dakota is on its way.

This time, it's a new twist on an old favorite.

Representatives from a group of 13 school districts from all parts of the state are scheduled to unveil a revamped version of a previously floated 3-class plan to the North Dakota High School Activities Association board Tuesday in Valley City.

"We feel we've created something here, and that we've developed a tournament format that we believe is fantastic," Valley City Public Schools Superintendant Dean Koppelman said. "We think we've created something that will bring a renewed excitement for our kids and the people across our state."

The bulk of the new plan - which would begin on a two-year experimental basis in 2011-12 - is a carbon copy of the "40/80" idea that was created a couple years ago, Koppelman said.

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The plan calls for the current Class A set up to stay the same as a re-named Class AA. Class AA would consist of schools with enrollments of 400 or more students.

The next 40 schools with the highest enrollment would make up Class A and the rest - approximately 80 schools - would be Class B.

Edgeley superintendant Rick Diegel said the postseason setup is where this plans sets itself apart.

The basketball and volleyball state tournament would combine teams from Class A and Class B. Each class would advance four teams to state, ensuring four schools with smaller enrollments would have a chance at a championship.

Class A would have four region tournaments.

Class B would hold eight district tournaments en route to four region tournaments.

At state, Class A and Class B would each play two games in their own brackets.

The final day of the state tournament would cross the brackets to pit teams from Class A against teams from Class B for the title, 3rd, 5th and 7th place.

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"We would have that David versus Goliath matchup for each game on the last day of the state tournament," Diegel said. "That's always a neat situation when you have a small school playing a larger school."

The Class A and B volleyball tournament would be played at the same time and at the same location as the Class AA tournament.

The basketball tournament would be played in similar locations as the current Class B tournament, Koppelman said.

This year's state Class B boys basketball tournament was played in Minot. The Class B girls tourney was played in Bismarck.

The plan also calls for early season basketball and volleyball tournaments for each region, pitting the top ranking teams against one another to start the year.

Representatives from Edgeley, Valley City, Fargo, Grafton, Enderlin, Beulah, Barnes County North, Griggs County Central, Jamestown, Dayton, Richland, Wyndmere and Lewis & Clark-Berthold met several times during the year to create the plan.

NDHSAA Executive Secretary Sherm Sylling also provided input, Koppelman said.

Fargo Public Schools Activities Director Ed Lockwood said the new plan could help create more fan-friendly local rivalries.

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"This would make schools playing between divisions easier," said Lockwood, who provided input on the plan. "With three divisions, some (current) Class A schools might find it easier to play a little larger school in the middle. If that mindset would shift, you could see it in volleyball, football and basketball."

The group that organized the new 3-class proposal forwarded the plan to every NDHSAA member school before the end of the school year. Koppelman said he has received only positive feedback.

Lockwood, Koppelman and Diegel each said they don't think the NDHSAA board will take action on Tuesday.

But any changes would have to be adopted soon to allow schools time for scheduling.

A 3-class plan that was orchestrated by the NDHSAA was defeated by the NDHSAA board 7-3 in April 2009. That proposal called for 16 schools in Class AA (enrollment of 400 or more), 32 schools in Class A and the rest in Class B. The plan had three separate state tournaments.

A survey of NDHSAA members earlier in 2009 showed 87 school districts opposed and 76 in favor of the NDHSAA's 3-class plan.

In 2008, a straw poll of members showed 78 against and 55 in favor of moving to three classes for basketball and volleyball.

A 3-class plan was also defeated by NDHSAA members 120-49 in 2005.

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"We just feel the time has come to really take a hard look at change," Koppelman said. "I think this has a chance."

THE 3-CLASS PROPOSAL

Based on current enrollment figures, this is how the schools would be

divided under a 3-class proposal that will be discussed at Tuesday's

North Dakota High School Activities Association meeting

CLASS AA

EAST

Devils Lake, Fargo Davies, Fargo North, Fargo Shanley, Fargo South, Grand Forks Central, Grand Forks Red River, Wahpeton, West Fargo

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WEST

Bismarck, Bismarck Century, Bismarck St. Mary's, Dickinson, Jamestown, Mandan, Minot, Turtle Mountain-Belcourt, Williston

CLASS A

REGION 1

Section 1: Central Cass, Kindred, Lisbon, Oakes, Valley City.

Section 2: Fargo Oak Grove, Finley-Sharon-Hope-Page, Hillsboro, Mayville-Portland, Northern Cass

REGION 2

Section 3: Carrington, Four Winds, Hatton-Northwood, Larimore, Midway-Minto

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Section 4: Cavalier, Fordville-Lankin-Park River, Grafton, Langdon, North Border

REGION 3

Section 5: Fort Yates, Kidder County, Linton, Shiloh Christian, South Border

Section 6: Bowman County, Dickinson Trinity, Heart River, Killdeer, Watford City

REGION 4

Section 7: Beulah, Des Lacs-Burlington, Hazen, New Town, Stanley

Section 8: Bishop Ryan, Bottineau, Dunseith, Rugby, Surrey

(NOTE: In volleyball, Garrison/Max moves to Section 7, North Shore-Berthold moves to Section 8, Fordville-Lankin-Park River moves to Section 3, Four Winds and Midway-Minto not in Class A volleyball)

CLASS B

REGION 1

District 1: Enderlin, Fairmount-Campbell-Tintah, Hankinson, Maple Valley, Milnor, North Sargent, Richland, Sargent Central, Wyndmere-Lidgerwood

District 2: Barnes County North, Central Prairie, Edgeley-Kulm, Ellendale, LaMoure, Litchville-Marion-Montpelier, Pingree-Buchanan-Kensal, Strasburg-Zeeland, Napoleon

REGION 2

District 3: Central Valley, Dakota Prairie, Griggs County, Lakota-Adams-Edmore, Midkota, New Rockford-Sheyenne, Thompson, Valley-Edinburg, Warwick

District 4: Drake-Anamoose, Harvey, Leeds-Maddock, Munich-Starkweather, North Star, Rolla-Rock Lake, Rolette, St. John, Wells County

REGION 3

District 5: Beach, Glen Ullin-Hebron, Flasher, Grant County, Hettinger, Mott-Regent, New England, Richardton-Taylor, Scranton, Solen-Cannonball

District 6: Center-Stanton, Garrison, Mandaree, New Salem, Parshall, Turtle Lake-Mercer, Underwood, Washburn, Wilton-Wing

REGION 4

District 7: Burke County, Divide County, Grenora, Kenmare, Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood, Ray, Tioga, Trenton, Trinity Christian

District 8: Berthold, Glenburn, Lewis & Clark-North Shore, Max, Our Redeemers, Sawyer, Towner-Granville-Upton, Velva, Westhope-Newburg

(NOTE: In girls basketball, White Shield is added to District 6, Powers Lake is added to District 7)

Hotzler is a sports reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.

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