The Rocky Mountain Grizzlies and the Rigby Trojans face each other in the 5A semi-finals in November 2022. | KIVI
BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — Idaho’s high school sports classification system could see its first major overhaul in 20 years starting in the fall of 2024.
A new system that would rename Idaho’s classifications and reset their dividing lines passed a contentious preliminary vote Wednesday by the Idaho High School Activities Association’s board.
The board deadlocked 6-6, forcing board President Tim Perrigot to cast the deciding vote. The rule change would need to pass a second vote Aug. 2 to become official starting with the 2024-25 school year.
Here’s how the new rule would work.
The new system would not add another classification. But it would rename Idaho’s six divisions from 6A, the largest, to 1A, the smallest.
Every current classification number would increase by one digit. That allows the state to get rid of its two 1A classifications, 1A Division I and 1A Division II.
For example, Idaho’s largest classification, 5A, would become 6A. The 4A classification would become 5A. And so on. And 1A Division II would simply become 1A.
The larger change comes from the increase of school enrollment sizes in each classification. Schools with 1,400 or more students would need to play in the state’s largest division under the new rule, an increase from the current minimum of 1,281 students first established in the 2004-05 school year.
Each lower classification would decrease by half, mirroring the current rules. That ensures no team competes against an opponent more than twice its size in its classification.
The enrollment boundaries would look like:
6A: 1,400 or more students (22 schools)
5A: 700 to 1,399 students (25 schools)
4A: 350 to 699 students (20 schools)
3A: 175 to 349 students (28 schools)
2A: 90 to 174 students (34 schools)
1A: 0 to 89 students (37 schools)
Perrigot has sat on the state’s classification committee for 25 years. He said the proposal’s goal was to tweak, not tear up, the current rules while accounting for the state’s rising population.
“I feel really good about it as a board member because, No. 1, the system is still similar to the one we had before,” Perrigot said. “It’s based on a number system where schools won’t play schools twice their size.
“No. 2, there’s a natural break of where these lines would be drawn. And the other thing I really like is it’s truly not going to change schools on the schedules and the teams they’ve been playing for the past 20 years.
“To me, it’s a minor adjustment that just matches the growth in the state of Idaho.”
But just like every reclassification cycle, any minor adjustment affects schools and leagues across the state.
The largest ramification would come in the state’s top classification. Without any changes, the largest division would grow to 28 members and leave just 19 in the second-largest division in 2024-25.
The new rule would place 22 schools in 6A with 25 in 5A.
Schools can still ask the IHSAA to move up or down a classification in September. And another new rule limits schools to move down in specific sports instead of as an entire athletic program, complicating any predictions.
But Wednesday’s proposed new rule would see the largest effect on the following schools and their opponents:
Ridgevue, Caldwell and Canyon Ridge would move up to what is now 6A
Lewiston and Middleton would drop to the new 5A
Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Skyline and Twin Falls avoid their projected move up and would remain in the new 5A
Cole Valley Christian and Bear Lake would move up one level to the new 4A
Parma and Coeur d’Alene Charter would drop to the new 3A
Vision Charter would rise a level to 3A
North Star Charter would drop to the new 2A.
Kendrick, Council and Hagerman would rise to the new 2A.
Genesee, Centennial Baptist, Gem State, Greenleaf, Rimrock, Carey and Castleford would drop to the new smallest classification, 1A.
Many of the state’s smallest schools, like Greenleaf and Rimrock, opt to play up a classification year after year to reduce their travel schedules. So projections at the 1A level remain a soft target.
The proposed rule met resistance from many members of the IHSAA board. They saw it hurting Idaho’s medium-size schools by allowing larger schools into what’s now the 4A classification.
“The issue I have is how this classification is using the 2,800(-student) number on the top side,” board member Starr Olsen said. “So we’re using an outlier and working down, instead of finding a middle number and working from there.
“It would be like starting at 40 (students) and doubling from there. It benefits one side.”
No Idaho high school has 2,800 students. The state’s largest school remains Mountain View, with an average of 2,447.5 students in the two most recent enrollment counts. The new rule would decrease the Mavericks’ enrollment advantage by ensuring it does not compete against any opponents with fewer than 1,400 students.
That change could harm the state’s smallest current 4A schools, like Emmett, Shelley and Preston. They would now have to face larger schools in their division as the maximum enrollment number for their classification rises.
But that pushes the conversation into murky territory, argued Tol Gropp, a former IHSAA board member who chaired the classification committee. He said the committee refused to discuss specific schools when coming up with the proposal, instead focusing on finding natural dividing lines and balance between the classifications.
“As we sat on the committee, I didn’t hear many conversations about how this would impact my school this way,” Gropp said. “Unfortunately, that’s what I’m hearing today.”
State volleyball to three days
The IHSAA board unanimously passed a final vote to move its volleyball state tournaments from a two-day format to a three-day format starting in the 2024-25 school year.
IHSAA board member Tonia Burk said during Wednesday’s meeting that would help Idaho broadcast its tournament and negate the safety concerns of two matches on side-by-side courts. IHSAA Assistant Director Mike Federico added it will help the state ensure every court has all the required lines.
“I know it sounds strange, but we’ve had state tournaments where we don’t have full lines on the court,” Federico said in Wednesday’s meeting. “We’ve had coaches and kids ask how is this possible. The answer is we don’t have the capability.”
Idaho track teams can begin offering the javelin at their regular-season track meets next spring. But the IHSAA postponed making it a state meet event until the spring of 2025 in a final vote Wednesday.
Idaho will become the 22nd state to crown champions in the event, which schools long declined to offer due to safety concerns. Neighbors like Washington, Oregon, Utah and Montana already offer the event.
Expanded state tournaments move forward
A proposal to increase the state tournaments from eight to 12 teams took its first step Wednesday. An expansion will receive its first vote at December’s IHSAA board meeting.
The plan would guarantee the four highest-ranked district champs in volleyball, soccer, basketball and softball get an automatic berth to the state quarterfinals. The fifth district champ and next seven highest-ranked teams in the MaxPreps rankings would then meet in an expanded, single-elimination play-in round.
The earliest the new system could start would be the 2024-25 school year.
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