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Tom Mix, Published April 06 2013

NDHSAA Board to ponder Class B state tournament swap

Fargo - The Class B boys basketball state tournament could once again signify the end of the winter high school sports season in North Dakota.

In June, the North Dakota High School Activities Association Board of Directors will vote on switching the start dates of the Class B boys and girls basketball seasons.

The 2010-11 basketball season marked the first year the boys tournament occurred before the girls.

The start dates for the B boys and girls basketball seasons are once again being left to a vote.

During a March 22 meeting in Fargo, the district chairs voted 12-4 recommending the boys and girls start dates be flipped. That recommendation will be discussed and voted on at the NDHSAA Board of Directors meetings scheduled for June 18-19 in Valley City.

“If our schools want it reversed, then I am not opposed to that,” said NDHSAA Executive Secretary Sherm Sylling said.

If the NDHSAA board approves the district chairs’ recommendation, the B boys will likely have to wait one more year to become the last state tournament of the winter season.

“There is no way that it will happen for next season,” Sylling said. “Too many schedules have been built. If the board approves that recommendation by the district chairs, it would be for the 2014-15 school year.”

Class B boys basketball continues to be the top profit-generating tournament in the state. It has produced a combined profit of more than $1.3 million during the span of 2002-03 to 2011-12. Moving the tournament earlier in the season has coincided with a dip in profits.

In 2009-10, the B boys state tournament – played at the Minot State Dome – netted a profit of $142,202.75. In 2010-11 – the first season when the boys started before the girls – the B turned a profit of $136,571.74, a decline of $5,631.01. Both the boys and girls tournaments were played at the Minot State Dome that season.

The 2011-12 tournament played at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks generated a profit of $83,135.91 – marking the only time in the last 10 years the tournament failed to show a profit of more than $100,000. It also signaled the only time in the 10-year span that the B was not the NDHSAA’s most profitable tournament. The Class B girls basketball tournament turned a $87,634.93 profit later that season.

The switch of seasons also limited the number of venues in which the B could be hosted.

Under the current schedule, the B boys tournament goes head-to-head with Class A boys and girls basketball region tournaments in Bismarck and Fargo.

The Bismarck Civic Center – which has hosted the B three times since the 2002-03 season – is unable to host the B boys because it remains the host of the West Region boys and girls basketball tournaments.

“When they made the switch a few years ago, I told the NDHSAA board that it would take Bismarck out of the rotation,” Bismarck High School activities director Jim Haussler said. “Bismarck is the site of (Class A) West Region basketball tournaments, and that is something we didn’t want to see move away.”

The 2002-03 B boys tournament was played at the Bismarck Civic Center and turned a $175,296.99 profit – the most in the last 10 years.

The potential change would be welcomed by Haussler, who said he has enjoyed managing both the B boys and girls tournaments over the years.

“I would be crazy to say we are opposed to hosting the state Class B boys basketball tournament,” Haussler said. “If we could have the Class B boys basketball and the West Region tournament, we would be grateful.”

The start dates were initially flopped three years ago to address the volleyball season overlapping with the start of girls basketball practices. The move sparked a lot of debate, and Sylling admits some of the decision’s impacts were not addressed.

“The overlap of the volleyball and girls basketball season was understood, and our schools were telling us that a break was more important to our female athletes than to our male athletes, so the change was made,” Sylling said. “One of the things that we failed to talk about that is a result of the change is that a lot of the football players came into the basketball season injured.”

Milnor head boys basketball coach Ben Nelson said his team felt the negative effects of the switch in 2010. That’s when many of his players competed on Milnor-North Sargent’s Class 1A state runner-up football team just days prior to lacing up their sneakers for basketball practice.

“That was difficult for our guys not having any recovery time because of the physicality of football,” said Nelson, who guided Milnor to a state championship this spring. “I also understand that if they flipped it back to the way it was, then you have volleyball overlapping with the start of the girls basketball season. There isn’t an easy solution to this.”

Lisbon girls basketball coach Barb Sweet favors the current schedule, but said she is not surprised that it’s up for vote again.

“I have been in the situation as an assistant coach when our volleyball team went to state three years in a row and we were not able to start basketball practice with our key players,” Sweet said. “That is a big thing. If you have a few players miss out on a few weeks of basketball, you start the season behind the 8-ball.”

Sweet is a volleyball official, and said she would support starting earlier in basketball if somehow the volleyball season could be condensed.

Fargo Oak Grove boys basketball coach Kyle Card said he hasn’t been opposed to starting earlier the last three seasons, but admits he is nostalgic for returning the B to its original spot in the tournament lineup.

“I have grown up with the Class B boys basketball tournament being the pinnacle or the last event of the basketball season,” Card said. “That’s the way I would like it to be if I had the choice. I can see everyone’s point of view. It isn’t an easy decision to make.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562