By: John Raffel
Area schools change classification next school season
It's going to be a new look in the postseason in the 2012-13 sports year and possibly beyond, when the boys and girls basketball and volleyball teams at six area schools play in different classes.
The Michigan High School Athletic Association announced last month the new enrollment classifications for schools. The MHSAA divides all of its members into four groups and comes up with classes A, B, C, and D. Because virtually all schools have volleyball and basketball, they fall under the Class A, B, C, and D classifications. Because there's a variable number of schools that have other sports, schools with those sports are divided into one, two, three, or four divisions to compete in the playoffs.
The class changes affect Beal City, Clare, Farwell, Hemlock, Michigan Lutheran Seminary, and Buena Vista.
The MHSAA noted that schools with 911 or more students will in Class A in MHSAA post-season tournament competition. The enrollment limits for Class B are 449 to 910, Class C are 217 to 448, and schools at 216 and fewer students are Class D. The breaks decreased 41 students between classes A and B, decreased 17 students between classes B and C, and increased one between classes C and D.
The enrollment numbers are based on a school's fourth Friday count in February.
The MHSAA notes that the enrollment figure submitted for athletic classification purposes may be different from the count that districts provide for school aid purposes since it does not include students ineligible for athletic competition for having hit their 19th birthday prior to September 1 of the current school year. The number also does not include alternative education students if none are allowed athletic eligibility by the local school district.
The MHSAA added that for 2012-13, there are 760 tournament-qualified member schools and 190 schools in each class.
Clare, with 465 students, will be in Class B and has the state's 370th largest enrollment.
Clare is the tenth smallest achool in Class B, and its athletic director Michael Schubart said his school was only about 20 students over the minimum barrier to qualify for Class B. Schubart said Clare has seen an increase in the enrollment number in recent years. Even though that's the factor that put Clare in Class B, a higher enrollment obviously has other advantages,
“Our number was 465,” he said. “It's a combination of an increase [in students] for us and a decrease for the state about 20 kids[for its minimum Class B number.] We really thought at 465 we were going to be on the cutline because it was at 465 last year. We were a little nervous we might be in Class B, but we were a little closer to the cutline. It's one of those things where it depends on where the numbers came in.
“Each year we seem to be adding more students,” Schubart continued. “We anticipate hopefully for that trend to continue. I think we could be hanging in B for awhile. I do think that's possible. Regardless of where you're at and what level you're in, we do have to be able to compete.”
Schubart feels there's a “disparity” with the count in Class B, considering that the top number for B is 910 students. “That's a pretty big gap. Class C numbers from the smallest to the biggest is only 231. That's a little more comparable. In basketball, we could play the likes of [Detroit] Country Day, because they're Class B.”
Basketball coaches from Clare aren't sure if there will be any major impact on going to Class B from C.
“The only change it will make for us is who we would match up with in the state tournament at the end of the season,” said Clare girls hoops coach Matt Rodenbo. When asked if the change to Class B could impact which teams Clare tries to put on its schedule, he noted that Clare "strengthened our schedule last season by adding Saginaw Nouvel and McBain. Several of the teams in our league are B schools and have been for several years.”
Farwell is at 483 students and has the state's 357th largest enrollment, and its basketball coaches know how Clare feels.
“I don't think it will be all that big of a deal,” said girls basketball coach Tom Kleinhardt. “In our district, I don't know if we could have gotten much tougher teams than Clare and McBain. Depending on where we go, I don't think it will be that much different.”
The fact that the Jack Pine Conference has some Class B schools will be helpful for Farwell to get used to that level, as far as Kleinhardt is concerned.
“There's nothing you can do about it,” said boys basketball coach Erik Schunk. “We're moving up and that's a good thing because it means more kids are staying in Farwell. Our Class C district is comparable to Class B.”
Beal City, at 213 students, goes from Class C to D next year. It's three students below the cutoff of 216 students.
“Our high school enrollment slightly dropped by three students from last year,” said athletic director Aaron Butkovich. “We went from 216 students in 2011 to 213 in 2012. Last year we were the cutoff line between class C and class D at 216 students. We were the smallest class C school in the state. We knew we were going to be right on the edge again this year and simply had to wait for our letter to come in the mail from the MHSAA. We are 3 students into class D.
“Our future school enrollments are very steady, with a potential slight increase at the high school based on the enrollment in junior high. I would project that Beal City is going to stay within 5 students of the class C and class D cutoff line either way for several years. It is simply going to be an annual question mark, and we will need to play the wait-and-see game. Yes, this was the first year in the history of Beal City High School that we were a class C school.
“Overall, our regular season is minimally affected by the change. We would anticipate that the MHSAA tournament will be familiar for us, seeing we were only one year removed from being in class D.”
Boys basketball coach Kaleb House said he had anticipated the move to Class D. “We are waiting to hear our district assignment. I would speculate that we will return to the district that has Sacred Heart, which always presents a challenge. It is nice to have the rivalry back for the postseason though,” he said.
Hemlock will be moving from Class B to C, with 421 students listed for its enrollment next season compared to 471 during 2011-12.
“We knew our numbers were getting lower each year and figured this would be the year we qualified for Class C,” said athletic director George Herrington. “We anticipate that we are in Class C for quite a while. Enrollments are dropping in almost every school district, and our elementary grades do not have the numbers we had years ago.”
Herrington recalls that Hemlock was in Class C in the mid-1990s for a few years.
“In districts, we will be able to compete with teams that are not in our Tri-Valley Central Division Conference.” Herrington also added that coaches see another advantage to the class move for Hemlock. “If we can win districts, we will not have to travel so far away for regionals."
MICHIGAN LUTHERAN SEMINARY
MLS will be moving from Class D to Class C next year. Its enrollment numer of 220, an increase from 197 this year, put the school four students into the upper class.
“It depended on where the cutoff would be,” said athletic director David Lecker. “We knew the cutoff would be right around that, and we missed it by four. We were C for quite a few years until five or six years ago, when our enrollment dropped and we became a D.
“Early 2000, we were C when the girls won the regional for basketball. Our senior class is small and our junior class is small. Last year, we had a freshman class of 80. Next year's freshman class looks like 60. It will be awhile again [before going back down to D.] I think it will be a few years.”
Lecker said that going to Class C will definitely have an impact on the sports that are affected. “You bump up one level, especially where we're located, the competition is tough,” he said. “We'll be in with Valley Lutheran and Nouvel. Hemlock is now down to C. The competition is much harder if you bump up, especially in the Saginaw area. The coaches all knew it. There's not a whole lot you can do. In the conference we're in, we played C and B schools anyhow. For basketball and volleyball, it's no big difference because of the conference we're in. But that helped us when we were in Class D.”
Buena Vista will be going from Class C to Class D. While Buena Vista's enrollment for this year was listed at 283 students, next year the enrollment will be 188.