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Heath Hotzler, Published January 06 2010

Three-class system for ND high school basketball is floated

The three-division debate is back.

Less than a year after a proposal to split North Dakota prep basketball and volleyball into three divisions was defeated, a new three-division concept is being spearheaded by Beulah activities director Mitch Lunde.

“I think there is enough interest to continue to pursue it,” Lunde said Tuesday. “Just because it is defeated the first time doesn’t mean there isn’t interest in three divisions.”

The new concept would give schools with an enrollment of 200-500 students and all of North Dakota’s private schools an option to create a “middle division” during the postseason.

A predetermined amount of schools that opted before the start of the year to join the new division would come together after the completion of North Dakota’s district tournaments for a new boys and girls region tourney.

After the district tournaments, mid-level teams would be replaced at the Class A and Class B regional tourneys by the highest placing remaining schools. The mid-level teams would no longer be eligible for the Class A and Class B state tournaments.

A combined mid-level state tournament would be held on March 17-19 at a site to be determined later.

Lunde said the new division would likely need at least 12 participants to work. If there is enough interest, Lunde said the proposal could eventually go before the NDHSAA board of directors for a vote. Lunde would ask for a two-year trial period beginning next year to gauge success of the plan.

“If you are not looking at new ways to do things, you are not being progressive,” Lunde said. “Times have changed. Schools such as Valley City and Beulah don’t really have a place.”

Lunde has set a meeting with North Dakota prep activities directors and administrators from 17 schools for next Tuesday in Carrington.

Central Cass activities director Justin Fletschock said Tuesday he is against the new proposal.

“I’m going (to the meeting in Carrington) to ask why we are doing this again,” Fletschock said. “I think it’s messing around with something that works.”

A three-division plan that was orchestrated by the North Dakota High School Activities Association was defeated by the NDHSAA board 7-3 last April. That proposal called for 16 schools in Class 2A (enrollment of 400 or more), 32 schools in Class 1A and the rest in Class B.

A survey earlier in the year showed 87 member schools were opposed and 76 in favor of a 3-division plan.

In 2008, a straw poll of members conducted by the NDHSAA showed 78 against and 55 in favor of moving to three divisions.

A three-division plan was defeated 120-49 in 2005.

“I don’t think you can just slide under the table and say this is a dead issue,” Lunde said. “I think there is still a lot of interest in having the right plan come up.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562