John's Journal
Two-Year District Football Schedules Will Begin To Take Shape1/24/2014
Here's further information on the plan for district football scheduling that was approved by the MSHSL board of directors on Thursday...

A statewide committee will decide on district lineups in the spring, and they will be finalized by the MSHSL board of directors over the summer.

Schools with football teams grouped into the same districts will be able to meet no later than August with a goal of finalizing football schedules for 2015 and 2016 by November 1.
A Momentous Change In High School Football Is Approved1/23/2014
Thursday’s MSHSL board of directors meeting was stunning in a couple of ways. First was the manner in which the 20 board members discussed and debated a proposal to completely restructure the format of regular-season football. I sat in the board room as a reporter for several years before joining the MSHSL staff nearly four years ago, and the serious nature of Thursday’s meeting was striking.

The board always does serious work in a serious way, but this debate was different. The members knew that if they approved the district plan – which they did by a vote of 19-1 – it would have an impact on every football team in the state. The plan was created as a way to solve scheduling problems faced by many schools in filling their eight-game regular-season schedules.

The other stunning part of the day was how football will change, beginning with the 2015 season. As outlined in a previous installment of John’s Journal, the district plan will place teams into large groups (at least 16 or more schools whenever possible) and schools in each district will work together to create schedules for each team. The postseason playoff format will remain unchanged.

Visitors are always allowed to speak before the board takes any action, and today six athletic/activity directors spoke in favor of district football. Only one of them was from the metro area. Here’s a recap of what each of them said…

--Les Zellmann, St. James athletic director and former board president. “We do a lot of things in this state that to a certain extent I think are cutting edge. Doing something out of the norm in terms of football scheduling is cutting edge. … The issue is widespread and it’s not going away.”

--Jeff Boran, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown athletic director and Gopher Valley Conference representative: In some years “it has been virtually impossible to develop a schedule. … This plan is a much better option (than section scheduling in the reguar season).”

--Ted Schultz, Minnetonka athletic director: “History has shown that what we’re doing isn’t working. … Before you is an opportunity to solve the problem and provide these opportunities for student-athletes. … It’s time for this board to take a stand and do what’s right for all the student-athletes in all the schools.”

--Chris Chalmers, Albert Lea athletic director: “It’s an excellent plan, even for schools that have eight football games.”

--Mike Schmidt, Staples-Motley athletic director: “We travel too far and too wide ... Our Friday night lights are dimming in outstate Minnesota. … Our football travel budget is bigger than basketball. We had a volleyball gate that was bigger than football.”

--Rob Norman, Blue Earth athletic director: “I’ve been an AD for 18 years and every year I’ve struggled to fill a football schedule.”

Board member Mark Solberg (AD at Cambridge-Isanti) told the board about a conversation he recently had with Brainerd football coach Ron Stolski. He quoted Stolski as asking, “What would reasonable people do and is this the best thing for students who play football in Minnesota? … Wrestle with it, then stand tall and take a vote.”

Board member and Hopkins AD Dan Johnson said, “I don’t know how a school or a conference loses in this initiative.”

Board members come from Underwood, St. Charles, Montevideo, Jordan, Little Falls, Rosemount, Northfield, St. Cloud, Cambridge, Hopkins, Eagan, Sauk Rapids, Ada, Harmony, Lakeville, Orono, Minneapolis, Jackson and Stanchfield. The only member to vote against district football was Rosemount AD Mike Manning.

--To read more about how district football will work, scroll down to the next story on John’s Journal (which previewed Thursday’s meeting).

ON ANOTHER FOOTBALL TOPIC …

The board approved the timeline for the 2015 football season and playoffs. Because of the availability of TCF Bank Stadium, the Prep Bowl will be played two weeks earlier than normal that year, on Nov. 14-15.

The regular season will remain at eight games and the playoffs will not be shortened; those were options the board considered. Practice will start on Aug. 10 and the first games of the regular season will be allowed to be played on Saturday, Aug. 22 … that’s the normal day for preseason scrimmages. So preseason practices will last for two weeks instead of the usual three before the first game.

--Also, the board tabled a proposal to change the structure of the Class 6A football playoffs, with members saying they wanted more input and more time. The proposal calls for each of the four 6A sections to be seeded 1 through 8, and all 32 teams to be placed into one tournament bracket with eight four-team sub-brackets. Four of those sub-brackets would consist of teams seeded 1, 4, 5 and 8, and the others would include teams seeded 2, 3, 6 and 7. This plan would ensure that No. 1 section seeds would not meet until the state semifinals.

AND IN SOFTBALL NEWS…

The board approved a request from the softball coaches association to add a fourth class in that sport, beginning in 2016. The current state tournament format will remain, with the six softball fields at Caswell Park in North Mankato able to handle four classes and consolation play in each class.

AND FINALLY …

--Joyce Swenson, state director of Minnesota Academic Decathlon, spoke to the board about a proposed partnership with the MSHSL. Academic decathlon involves competition in 10 areas; six relating to knowledge in the areas of economics, fine arts, history, language and literature, mathematics and science; three written and verbal communication tests; and a Super Quiz. The board may act on the proposal at its April meeting.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 270
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 6,963
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Changes Possible In Regular-Season Football Structure1/22/2014
When the MSHSL board of directors meets Thursday morning, football will be a major topic for the 20 board members who represent schools of all sizes around the state. The biggest item on the agenda is a proposal to change the structure of regular-season football in the hopes of relieving problems in filling schedules.

A proposal called District Football Scheduling would group teams into districts, beginning with the 2015 season. The board’s deliberations will include seeing the results of a survey that sheds some light on the issue.

The proposal includes these possibilities …

--Scheduling groups would be created around the state, based on factors that include school size, geography, “like schools” and strength of programs. The groups should consist of at least 16 or more schools whenever possible. The minimum size of any group is 10 schools. Districts could include teams from more than one class.

--A placement committee with representatives from all areas of the state would place schools into scheduling groups. Those decisions would be reviewed by the MSHSL’s Activities Director Advisory Committee and would have to be approved by the MSHSL board of directors.

--Districts would be realigned every two years to make adjustments for enrollment changes, changes in nine-man teams, changes in cooperative programs and changes due to programs being dropped, school consolidations, etc.

--A guideline is that the enrollment difference in any group should be no more than a ratio of 2-to-1, and when possible the ratio would be less than 2-to-1.

--All schools would be able to provide information to the placement committee, including important rivalries, willingness to play against larger schools, travel issues or a willingness to travel farther for a competitive schedule.

--Class 6A would follow the same plan as other classes, and some Class 5A teams may be included in groups with 6A teams based on enrollment and geography.

--Each school must play all eight of its regular-season games within its district. The only exceptions are districts with an odd number of schools. In that case, Zero Week games may be used to provide a full schedule or games could be scheduled against out-of-state teams.

--Each district would create schedules for teams in the district. Districts may create conferences or other sub-groups within the district for scheduling purposes.

--The section playoff format would remain the same as it is currently, with section seeding based on regular-season results.

The board could go in one of several directions at Thursday’s meeting. The members could approve the plan as is, they could make changes in the proposal, they could ask for more input and time to make a decision, and they could vote to make no changes to regular-season football.

At the December meeting the board asked MSHSL staff to survey schools on this topic. There are approximately 375 football teams in the state, and 227 schools completed an online survey. Here are the survey questions and results…

1. All students who play football should have the opportunity for a full eight-game schedule against teams from Minnesota. Yes-204. No-21. (90% yes).

2. Does your school currently have challenges scheduling regular-season football games? Yes-41. No-186. (18% yes).

3. Has your school had challenges with regular-season football scheduling at any time in the past 10 years? Yes-94. No-133 (41% yes).

4. Has your school had challenges with regular-season football scheduling at any time in the past 20-25 years? Yes-94. No-133. (42% yes).

5. Resolving regular-season football scheduling issues would help solve issues which oftentimes lead to conference dissatisfaction. Yes-126. No-100. (55% yes).

6. Resolving regular-season football scheduling issues would be of assistance to me as an athletic/activities director. Strongly Agree-56. Agree-67. Disagree-52. Strongly Disagree-51. (54% agree or strongly agree).

--Another football topic for the board Thursday is the 2015 season. Because of the availability of TCF Bank Stadium, the season-ending Prep Bowl will be held two weeks before Thanksgiving in 2015. That means the normal season schedule must change; practices could begin sooner, the regular season could be shortened to seven games, one round of postseasoson play could be eliminated.

Another possibility is allowing teams to play their first game after two weeks of practice (instead of the usual three weeks). Many teams now take part in scrimmages after two weeks of practice, but the board could allow games to be played on the Saturday of the second week of practice in 2015.

--In another football agenda item, the football advisory committee will ask for a change in the playoff structure for Class 6A football. The proposal calls for each of the four 6A sections to be seeded 1 through 8, and all 32 teams to be placed into one tournament bracket with eight four-team sub-brackets. Four of those sub-brackets would consist of teams seeded 1, 4, 5 and 8, and the others would include teams seeded 2, 3, 6 and 7.

This plan would ensure that No. 1 section seeds would not meet until the state semifinals. The tournament bracket would be revealed on television or through some type of media event.

--The softball coaches advisory committee will ask the board to approve an additional class, moving softball from three classes to four.

Thursday's meeting will begin at 9:30 a.m. at the MSHSL office in Brooklyn Center.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 270
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 6,963
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
At Rochester Lourdes, The Glass Is Always More Than Half Full 1/16/2014
If numbers help define Myron Glass, don't look at the number of girls basketball state championship teams he has coached at Rochester Lourdes High School. Or the number of teams he has taken to state tournaments. Or the state titles his teams have captured in cross-country and track.

Those numbers are indeed impressive. Under Glass the Eagles have won eight basketball titles, which is a state record he shares with Faith Johnson Patterson, formerly of Minneapolis North and currently at DeLaSalle. And Glass has coached 15 teams to state tourneys, which is the most in girls basketball history.

The numbers that really count, however, are the numbers of girls he has mentored, taught, coached and led since his career as a teacher and coach began at Lourdes in 1968. He has been the Eagles' girls basketball coach since 1983.

"He's given his life to this school," said Lourdes athletic director Marv Peters. "That's the easiest way to say it."

Glass is one of the pioneers of girls athletics in Minnesota. He helped start girls programs at Lourdes, building models for many other schools in southeastern Minnesota and around the state.

"Look at how far the young ladies have come," Glass said. "That's something that myself and others can be really proud of. Once we ran a couple meets and got more teams doing it, it just took off."

Glass may or may not retire after this season -- more on that in a moment -- but no matter when he steps down he will leave big shoes to fill. He ranks second all-time in Minnesota girls basketball victories; his 713-134 mark stands behind only New London-Spicer coach Mike Dreier's record of 799-145.

Glass coached girls and boys cross-country at Lourdes for 40 years, winning four state championships with the boys team and two with the girls. His girls track teams also won two state championships. Lourdes owns a total of 42 state team championships and Glass was the head coach for 16 of them.

"I am perplexed about replacing him," Peters said. "It's going to be tough.''

Glass is waffling just a bit on retiring. He had originally talked about ending his coaching career after the 2012-13 season, but Peters convinced him to stay on while Lourdes departed its downtown location after 71 years and moved into a sparkling new campus in northwest Rochester. Now, in the midst of the 2013-14 season, Glass won't absolutely, positively confirm that he will retire at season's end. But it appears that he will.

He laughed when I asked him about retiring, saying that is the likely scenario "unless Marv talks me out of it, like he did last year."

Little has changed over the years. Glass still wears a wristwatch calculator, befitting a math teacher; he also taught social studies before retiring from teaching several years ago. He also still prepares some of the most detailed scouting reports of any high school coach in any sport. He puts together seven- or eight-page packets for each of his players to study before every game.

Glass has coached young athletes who grew up and had children, and then he coached the second generation. As he put it,"You have kids who you held as a baby, because you coached and taught their parents, then you're coaching them when they're 16, 17 years old."

Martha Macken, a Lourdes player in the 1980s, wishes Glass would stick around long enough to coach her fifth-grade daughter, Sydney Elliott, and hand her some of those famous scouting reports.

"The thing about Mr. Glass is he knows the team that you're playing. We know their offense and their defense before we play them. He's very prepared," said Macken, who made one of the biggest baskets in Lourdes history, a buzzer-beater that lifted the Eagles past Wheaton 33-31 in the 1987 state title game.

"Mr. Glass has really created a foundation here, and a legacy," Macken said. "He's built these programs. When I grew up we didn't have all the leagues and everything that they currently have, and it's due to him. He put in a lot of time and effort. He's a fixture at the school."

At both the old school and the new school, Glass is the person who opens the gym doors in the morning and locks up the place at night. He sweeps the floor, he mends uniforms, he runs summer basketball camps, he even runs the clock for ninth-grade girls basketball games.

"He's here every weekend," Peters said. "Every Saturday, and he comes in on Sunday. The thing about Myron is that there are so many layers, but every layer connects back to the school. It's been his vocation.

"I think he's one of the gentlest, kindest guys around. He really makes it all about the kids. He deflects so much; he deflects praise, he deflects congratulations. He deflects all those things, he's so old-school."

Glass' success as a coach is remarkable because he didn't play the game. He was cut from the basketball team at Minneapolis South and worked his way through St. Cloud State as a non-athlete, working at a gas station in Minneapolis during summers, weekends and holidays. After graduating, he interviewed for teaching jobs at Albany, at a Minneapolis junior high and Lourdes. The first offer came from Lourdes and he happily accepted.

Now 46 years later, as a lifelong bachelor in his late 60s, he is pondering a transition to a post-coaching lifestyle.

"That's the hard part about deciding on retirement," he said. "What do you do? Being a single guy you don't have that 'honey do' list that the married guys have. The mind is no problem, it's the body that as you get older has a little trouble keeping up. I'm probably looking forward to a knee replacement and stuff like that."

When Glass retired as a classroom teacher, he began working as a scheduling coordinator at Lourdes. As any administrator knows, putting together schedules for classes, teachers, students and classrooms can be a tedious, difficult process. And that's right up the coach's alley.

"He's just been a whiz at that because of his math skills," Peters said. "Even if basketball comes to an end, I really hope we can keep him on as our scheduler and helping in the guidance department."

Glass has not only taught and coached generations of athletes at Lourdes, he also has had a major impact on other coaches at Lourdes and southeastern Minnesota.

"I'm sure he stole or figured out everything he did, and now he's the most copied coach around," Peters said. "Everybody in this area who's successful does what he does. It's unbelievable. That's the best form of flattery."

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 259
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 6,855
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Debate, Football, Band And More: Edina Junior Is A Busy Young Lady1/14/2014
If there are any busier high school students in Minnesota than Annika Smith-Ortiz, it has to be a very short list. The Edina junior will compete in the state debate tournament Friday and Saturday at the University of Minnesota, and that activity is just one of many for her.

“There’s so much to do in life and I might as well get it all in there when I’m young,” she said.

In addition to taking part in Lincoln-Douglas debate, Smith-Ortiz was a junior varsity kicker on the Edina football team last fall, plays softball, is on the Nordic ski team, is vice-president of her school’s Latin club and a captain for Sober Squad. Her current classes include Advanced Placement U.S. History, AP U.S. Literature and Language, AP Three-Dimensional Art and Design, Enriched Biology, Pre-Calculus and Latin 4. She also plays tenor saxophone in the varsity band, baritone saxophone in jazz band and marches in the football halftime shows while wearing her football uniform.

Oh, and she biked across the country last summer from South Carolina to California, nearly 3,200 miles over six weeks.

When I asked if she ever had any free time, Annika laughed and said, “I try and work it in there. It usually comes in the form of sleep and napping, maybe reading.”

This will be her first time competing at state debate. Her Twitter username offers a clue about why she is talented in debate; it’s“I LIKE ARGUING.”

“I really like to argue,” she said. “I think for me, it’s a lot of looking at the news. I’m really interested in the news and being able to see the full side of things. In debate you’re forced to debate both sides of the argument, and you get caught up. It’s fascinating for me to see the world and get caught up in topics that you never would have thought about otherwise.”

Annika isn’t alone in being a very busy member of a debate team; the activity is populated by bright, energetic, well-rounded students. One of her Edina debate teammates, Arvind Veluvali, for example, will compete in Lincoln-Douglas at state and also is a member of the Hornets swimming and diving team.

Annika (in the center of this photo) became interesting in kicking footballs in eighth grade, when students got to try it in gym class.

“I thought it would be really cool to do this,” she said. “It was so much fun to get onto the team, form relationships and play a sport I love. I try to be as much of a team player as I can.”

Annika didn’t have any time for football last summer while biking across the country, but in previous summers she worked out with linemen and defensive backs, “trying to get a feel for the team. I love football and just being part of it is awesome.”

She enjoys watching football on TV. When I asked if she had seen any of last weekend’s NFL playoff games, she said, “because of debate I came home and took a nap and got ready for finals.”

This is indeed finals week at Edina, and Annika will miss two final exams Friday because of the debate tournament.

“I think the leadership and the voice that debate gives people is really incomparable to other activities,” she said. “It really teaches you to get up in front of crowds, and as you advance further, more and more people are expecting you to do well. It’s kind of like pitching or kicking; you’re the only one being watched. In every sport it’s a different sort of activity while debate is more of a mental awareness, a mental game.”

She is uncertain of her career plans, saying the medical field is one possibility.

“I would love to go into medicine of some sort. And last year I did an English project called a passion project, and my project was on teen homelessness. I’d like to do anything that gives back to the community. Anything that encourages leadership and people to step forward and make a difference.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 259
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 6,811
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn