New England, Dickinson Trinity to keep co-op after dissolution disallowed

MINOT -- In a unanimous decision Friday, the North Dakota High School Activities Association Board of Directors voted to deny New England High School's appeal of an earlier ruling that would not allow a dissolution of its football co-op with Dick...

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A sign recognizing New England-Regent football state championships stands in Regent. New England's appeal to break of its co-op with Dickinson Trinity and allow a co-op between it and Mott-Regent was disallowed Friday. (Press Photo by Colton Pool)

MINOT - In a unanimous decision Friday, the North Dakota High School Activities Association Board of Directors voted to deny New England High School’s appeal of an earlier ruling that would not allow a dissolution of its football co-op with Dickinson Trinity prior to the start of next season.

The decision comes as a disappointment to New England personnel, who alledge their students are not receiving the same opportunities to achieve what's being afforded to Trinity students.

New England had previously applied to the NDHSAA’s football commission to allow a co-op with Mott-Regent, but it was denied. The ensuing appeal sent the issue to the full board.

After Friday’s discussions, it appeared as though that timelines that are already in place factored greatly in the board’s decision.

“They’re in a very difficult (place) trying to regulate high school athletics and activities across the state, and I know guidelines at times cause some clouding of judgement,” said Kelly Koppinger, the superintendent of New England Public Schools. “That may need to be looked at in the future. The decision to deny that co-op (with Mott-Regent) really affects our students negatively. … It was a little disheartening.”


Scott Monke, president of the New England School Board, advocated for the board members to rethink the initial decision, but he left the meeting feeling as though no amount of reasoning would have made a difference.

“I thought they had their mind made up before it started, and they weren’t going to change their mind no matter what we said,” Monke said. “We could have thrown the kitchen sink at them, and I don't think they would have changed their mind.”

Monke’s main concern, which was shared by other members in the school’s administration, is that New England players feel they are being placed in an environment where they aren't valued as much as those from Trinity.

“We’ve had kids that play seventh and eighth grade and contribute to junior varsity, like the coaches, and they come up to varsity and feel like they need to quit,” Monke said. “… They like the sport, but get up there and get a distaste for it because of how they were treated. If there’s a distaste there, the younger kids hear about it, and now we have kids not even making the attempt (to play).”

Steve Glasser, the president of Dickinson Catholic Schools, was not present at the meeting. When reached afterward, he said he and Trinity’s administration would have supported the board’s decision regardless of the outcome.

“Our concern was in the best interest of the student-athletes at New England,” Glasser said. “We want these young men to be able to play football. If that was going to be at Trinity next year, we’re more than happy to fulfill the co-op. If they had approved everything and formed the co-op with Mott-Regent, we would have been supportive of that as well.”

Glasser also dispelled the notion that New England students were being treated unfairly in any way, and in doing so, spoke highly of head football coach John Odermann and the program he’s running.

“I think it's quite obvious that they’ve been treated as well as our kids,” Glasser said. “As I think John would say, we’re all on the same team. As John would say, they’re our kids, or his kids. By and large, I think it’s been a positive experience for New England’s kids.”


Daryl Jung, New England’s athletic director, said he found the board’s decision to be in direct opposition to its self-stated mission of ensuring that students have all available avenues to be able to participate in athletics and other activities.

“I think it's a little bit of conflict, a little bit against their philosophy,” he said. “We want more kids to participate (in football), but by holding us in there, they’re limiting some kids.”

Jung explained that Class 2A football -- where the Titans compete -- requires a physical build that some, if not most, of New England’s students are not able to attain. A lower level, he said, such as 9-man, would be far more accommodating.

Would New England and Mott-Regent have been allowed to co-op this year, they would have played 9-man.

“We hope our kids get a fair shake, playing there (at Trinity),” Jung said. “We hope they treat our kids good because they agreed they’d have us back.”

For Mott-Regent’s part, Friday’s decision doesn’t affect much in terms of next year. In the three-year plan that was initially proposed, it was only next year (year one) that has shown to be the issue for NDHSAA.

“We were just an outside entity in this thing,” said Adam Hill, principal and former athletic director at Mott-Regent Public Schools. “It’s my understanding that years two and three are still intact if New England is still open to that. If the state wants them to play with Trinity (next year), that’s nothing off our back.”

Citing a previous co-op between Regent and New England -- which generated four 9-man state championships in the 1980s and ’90s -- Hill said the initial decision to welcome New England in the coming years seemed like the friendly and mutually beneficial thing to do.


“That history makes it easier to say we’ll help out and provide a home for you for football. It wasn’t a hard decision, really,” Hill said. “We’re not the biggest kid on the block, so numbers wise, it would have been a good arrangement for us as well.”

Though he couldn’t say what the next course of action was, Koppinger said he’s hopeful New England Public Schools can find a resolution that makes the most sense for its students.

“We have to sit down as a school district and as a board and see what other options may be available to us to maybe pursue to provide our kids the most beneficial option for them,” he said.

Odermann acknowledged there may have been a “gap” between Trinity’s students and those from New England last season and in years prior, but he said he did what he could to bring the team together.

“The trip the (Assumption) Abbey in Richardton in the fall was supposed to make the kids feel like they were a part of something larger,” Odermann said. “I tried everything to make them feel welcome. … From my standpoint, the Trinity kids, the New England kids, they’re all Titans to me.”

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