Among the sticky wickets the South Dakota High School Activities Association Board of Directors confronts in its meeting tomorrow is Freeman’s request to form an emergency football co-op with Canistota. Only ten boys showed up for practice this month, so Freeman initially decided to cancel its season.
Canistota is willing to play ball by adding Freeman’s boys to its 9A football roster. But Canistota’s fellow 9A schools are saying no way… or at least not to Canistota’s way. Every 9A school but Canistota has signed onto a letter penned by Gayville-Volin principal Tom Rice saying that they’re fine with the co-op, but only if Canistota follows the rules and moves up to 11B or 9AA, as the additional enrollment from Freeman would require them to do. Here’s Mr. Rice’s argument against Canistota’s request:
It has come to my attention that Freeman and Canistota are considering a Co-op due to Freeman’s inability or unwillingness to have a team. I am in favor of this as are other schools in Class 9A. The male ADM puts this Co-op at 58. While the number escapes me at this time, I believe the 58 boys would classify them for the 11B ranks. I want to be very clear that I have great respect for both Canistota and Freeman. We have competed against them in other sports and would look forward to the opportunity in FB as well. I admire Canistota’s willingness to take in the Freeman program, but that would also create an unfair advantage for all other schools in Class 9A including Gayville-Volin. At the bare minimum, Canistota should play their regular schedule and if they qualify for the playoffs (which I believe they will), they should move to 9AA.
…I have discussed this subject with many schools today and will send them a copy of the letter as well. If the Canistota District balks at this due to our request for them to move up, I understand. I also understand that 9AA schools could have their feathers ruffled as well. Who wants to have their island blown up? We all want what is best for our school districts. To me, I know this is the best course of action.
Our district would be more than happy to take the players, abide by the stipulation and make the necessary arrangements [Tom Rice, letter to SDHSAA, 2015.08.20, included in SDHSAA Board of Directors August 2015 agenda packet].
The Freeman boys would have to drive 44 miles to take Mr. Rice up on his generous offer, versus 24 miles to get to practice in Canistota.
Lemmon athletic director and coach Brent Dirk agrees that a Canistota-Freeman co-op should bump up:
All kids should have the opportunity to participate, but if an emergency coop is formed then the new coop should have to follow the same rules as the rest of the current football coops when it comes to classification. In this instance of a Canistota/Freeman coop (ADM above 56) I believe the coop would get the opportunity to compete in the playoffs as 11B this year or they could chose to use their two year “grace period” to make the adjustment to 11 man, which would have them classified as 9AA for post season play this season [Brent Dirk, e-mail to Tom Rice, 2015.08.24, in SDHSAA Board of Directors August 2015 agenda packet].
Menno-Marion head football coach Todd G. Obele musters his Master of Science (yes, he signs his e-mail with “M.S.”) to oppose the Freeman-Canistota proposal:
The football situation in Freeman is NOT an emergency. An emergency is defined as the following; “An unforeseen combination of circumstances or resulting state that calls for immediate action” (Merriam Webster.com). Participation numbers for Freeman football have been declining for at least three years, this cannot be considered unforeseen. Should the lack of their efforts or action be rewarded by a last minute decision to partner with a pre season #1 in 9A classification?
My understanding is that Canistota will take Freeeman players as long as they can stay 9A. Canistota has played this game before, as long as they do not have to give anything up, they are willing to accommodate. I am sure a lot of teams would enjoy ten more players and stay in their current classification. I have heard from many community members and other coaches that are very upset at this last minute coop scenario.
In 2011/12, I coached a team that only had 10 players, we did not quit or forfeit any games, we played our schedule!
I am asking that you do not allow this last minute coop and at the very least for the fairness of all other teams, if you should decide to grant this coop, they be moved to 9AA classification [Todd G. Obele, M.S., e-mail to SDHSAA exec Wayne Carney, 2015.08.24, in SDHSAA Board of Directors August 2015 agenda packet].
Erroneous semicolon aside (what, really? who gets through graduate school still thinking that a semicolon introduces a list?), Obele is right, as are Dirk, Rice, and the rest of Class 9A. Rules are rules. Contrary to our Junior Senator’s thinking, we make rules for good reason, and we all agree to follow them. If Canistota is able to access a larger pool of players, it should play schools with player pools of similar sizes, per the rules endorsed by Canistota and every other member school of the SDHSAA. Moving up in class won’t stop the Canistota and Freeman boys from playing, and playing is what every party involved here says matters.