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Tom Mix, Published June 27 2012

NDHSAA Board of Directors approve emergency football co-op amendment

VALLEY CITY, N.D. – Central Valley senior football players Dusty Schildberger and Ethan Proznik will have their numbers called on Friday nights this fall.

After months of meetings and appeals, Schildberger and Proznik are eligible to play for Hillsboro High School courtesy of a newly installed amendment to the state’s football guidelines.

The amendment allows for the creation of co-ops in the second year of an existing two-year plan.

The North Dakota High School Activities Association Board of Directors approved the amendment with a unanimous 9-0 vote on Wednesday.

“I’m pretty happy that it happened and it’s pretty exciting that we’ll get to play for our senior year,” said Proznik, who plays running back and outside linebacker.

Schildberger shared Proznik’s enthusiasm.

“It’s really sweet and I was really happy about it,” said Schildberger, who plays wide receiver and defensive back. “I get to play with my friends from Hillsboro now. It should be fun.”

Under the new emergency co-op rule, the school with the largest enrollment will be the host school of the co-op. The host school’s current schedule and division placement will be used for the second year of the existing plan.

Only seniors from the applying school are eligible for the varsity team at a $1,000 non-compliance fee per player. Junior varsity players can compete for a $200 fee.

Hillsboro-Central Valley will play in the 9-man division this fall. Central Valley is located near Buxton, N.D., which is 15 miles north of Hillsboro.

Who pays the fees for the Central Valley football players will be a matter of the school district, said board member Pete Moe.

John Proznik – Ethan Proznik’s father – said Central Valley supporters have pledged financial aid if the school board can’t come up with the funds.

Central Valley’s football team dissolved following the 2011 season, leaving Schildberger and Proznik with no team to play for their senior season.

“It’s a great decision,” former Central Valley head football coach Randy Vigen said. “I think it’s great for Central Valley and our kids, but it’s also great for other schools that might be in the same situation.”

In April, the board of directors were unanimously opposed to Central Valley and Hillsboro filing for a football co-op for the 2012-13 school year, citing it wasn’t in compliance with the state’s two-year football plan it uses for scheduling.

The schools successfully applied for a football co-op starting for the 2013-14 school year last week, but appealed the April 16 decision. That prompted the state’s football advisory committee to review its guidelines and determine the feasibility of adding emergency co-ops.

The committee brought forth a proposal that would allow schools to apply for an emergency co-op if they meet the following criteria:

An approved co-op for the following two-year plan is in place.

The requesting school has provided proof that student athletes have no opportunity to compete at the varsity level for the second year of the existing plan.

“Hopefully adding to the football plan was some good policy that can be good in a variety of situations,” board member Todd Olson said.

It was a decision that many board members said they considered carefully.

“It’s a big issue,” NDHSAA Executive Secretary Sherm Sylling said. “The board wrestled with this. … I think they crafted, for lack of a better term, some wiggle room in the guidelines that puts the burden of proof back on our member schools.”

A future source of opposition to the amendment may come from how it impacts classifications. If the current enrollments for grades 7-10 of Central Valley and Hillsboro were counted, the co-op would be classified in Class 2A.

“I sincerely hope that this does not have any statewide impact,” Sylling said. “A lot will be determined in how well the team does. There could be some questions raised. It was fair to allow these two boys to play and I’m happy for them, but if they are highly competitive and the two enrollments are not counted for the divisions they are playing in, that could be questioned by other schools.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562