John's Journal
Notes On Football, Track And Other Spring Sports4/11/2011
The sun is shining here at MSHSL World Headquarters, making me think (hope) we’ll have a nice week with temperatures heading in the right direction and spring sports going at a good pace.

Let’s kick off the week by revisiting a big news item from last week: The addition of a seventh class in football. Some clarifications seem to be in order, based on feedback following Thursday’s decision by the MSHSL board of directors to add a new class for the largest 32 schools beginning in 2012. Some of the screamers and shouters seem to think this is about awarding more medals and trophies. It is not.

First, the size disparity between Class 5A schools was a major factor in the decision. Ideally, the largest football schools in a class should not have an enrollment more than twice the enrollment of the smallest schools. Under the current 5A setup, the disparity is approaching 3 to 1.

A related reason for the change is very simple: the safety of the athletes. Concussions and other injuries are a real concern in high school athletics, and at the board of directors meeting in January, safety issues in 5A football were addressed by Rochester Century athletic director Mark Kuisle.

Kuisle, a former board member as well as past president of the board, told the members that 5A football “needs to be fixed” because of the size disparity between schools. Kuisle suggested adding a new class for the largest schools, telling the board, “The disparity of a 3-1 ratio is becoming unsafe for kids. 1,200 vs. 3,000; it’s wrong and I’m tired, as an athletic administrator, of trying to defend this and tolerate this disproportionality.”

So the next time you hear someone complaining about how “the MSHSL wants everyone to win a medal,” tell them that the MSHSL is just a bit more concerned with safety than medals.

A possible football change that was not approved was section football scheduling. This issue centers on the difficulties some schools have in filling their regular-season football schedules. For several months the board has received input and discussed the issue. The members voted against instituting section football on Thursday, although if the problems persist the question will be revisited at some point in the future.

Now for another clarification: If section football had been approved, everything’s not as simple as some appear to think. There have been questions about travel and long road trips, but people are not realizing what section football might change besides the scheduling system.

Bottom line: If section football were implemented, the sections might not look like the current sections. So don’t go down that, uh, road and assume the section your team is in right now will look exactly the same under section football scheduling.

WHEELCHAIR TRACK

Also on Thursday, the board approved three wheelchair events in track and field. The events are the 800, 1,600 and shot put, and the change takes place with the current season.

In the 800 and 1,600, wheelchair athletes will compete in races that are separate from the able-bodied athletes. In the shot put, wheelchair athletes may be placed in flights with able-bodied athletes but their results will be tabulated separately.

Wheelchairs used must meet various specifications, including: the chair shall have two rear wheels and one front wheel.

Wheelchair events can be held at all track meets this season, including sections and the state meet. It’ll be interesting to see how many wheelchair athletes take advantage of this change. Several other states have high school wheelchair track events, and we’re happy to join that group.

SPEAKING OF TRACK…

There’s going to be a very special track meet at Foley High School on Tuesday. It’s been more than 10 years since Foley hosted a track meet. But the Falcons’ new football/track complex is good to go for Tuesday’s meet against Sauk Rapids-Rice. Congratulations to all in Foley.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 566
*Miles John has driven: 8,807

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
Welcome Home: WNBA Draft Brings Robinson, Alexander To Lynx 4/11/2011
The Minnesota Lynx acquired two Minnesota natives in Monday’s WNBA draft, and one of the biggest resulting smiles was seen inside MSHSL headquarters.

After former St. Paul Central star Angel Robinson -- who played collegiately at Marquette – was taken by the New York Liberty with the 22nd overall pick, the Lynx traded No. 13 pick Jessica Breland of North Carolina to New York for Robinson. The Lynx also selected former Benilde-St. Margaret’s star Kachine Alexander from the University of Iowa with the 26th pick.

The big smile was worn by Sheila Robinson, Angel’s proud mother and an MSHSL administrative assistant. It’s one thing to follow the draft and see your child selected; it’s even better to see the hometown team trade for her.

"I couldn't be more excited for Angel," said Marquette coach Terri Mitchell. "She is the epitome of hard work, heart and passion. It is great that she has been recognized to play on the professional level and this is another step in her career. Angel was consistent all season and got the recognition she deserved during the NCAA tournament. People have now seen in Angel what we have seen all along. She is mentally and physically tough and has the talent to be successful at the next level."

Angel was an all-Big East selection at Marquette this season. Before her college career, she was named Minnesota’s Miss Basketball in 2007 after leading St. Paul Central to the Class 4A state championship and an undefeated season. She also was named the metro player of the year by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the state player of the year by the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

I wrote the Star Tribune story announcing Robinson’s selection as player of the year. Here’s how that story began…

For Angel Robinson, the devil is in the details. And the senior guard from St. Paul Central leaves no detail unattended. Just ask her about her role for the undefeated Minutemen, who are heavy favorites to win the Class 4A girls' basketball championship this week.

“My role? Since I'm captain and point guard, I have a big role," said Robinson, who has been voted by coaches as the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year. "I have to be a big leader, make sure my teammates' heads are together and make sure I'm setting everything up right, make sure everybody stays positive.”

The details of Robinson's game can be seen all over the court. She breaks the press, she directs the press. She blocks shots and makes shots. She passes the ball and draws oohs from the fans, she shoots the ball and draws aahs. On a team packed with an impressive array of talent, Robinson makes everything go. "She flat-out is the best overall player I've ever coached," Central coach Willie Taylor said. "She's kind of like the lead guy for the Miami Heat, Dwyane Wade. She can block shots, get steals, drive to the basket, shoot it and is about as tough as any girl you'll find on the floor. She can't be pushed around. She's also a very good defender and a quick jumper. She pretty much does everything."

Alexander, a Minneapolis native, has a similar high school pedigree. Kachine helped Benilde-St. Margaret’s win the Class 3A state title in her junior season; as a senior in 2006-07 she was a Miss Basketball finalist and was named to the St. Paul Pioneer Press All-Defensive team.

"I can't put into words how thrilled I am to be selected in the WNBA Draft," Alexander said. "I have wanted a chance to play in the WNBA since I started playing basketball as a kid. I would like to thank the Minnesota Lynx organization for the opportunity to play at the next level. I would also like to thank all of my coaches and teammates at the University of Iowa for helping me reach this goal. I can't wait to get back home to Minneapolis and begin the challenge of making a WNBA roster."

There are some proud parents and family members here at home, too.
Updates From The Board Of Directors Meeting …4/7/2011
11 A.M. UPDATE...

--Wayzata athletic director Jaime Sherwood asked the board to approve section football scheduling. In recent years Wayzata has played games in Wisconsin, llinois and Michigan, and last season Wayzata played only six regular-season games en route to the Class 5A state championship. Next season, Wayzata plans to play Carmel Catholic (Ill.) in Dubuqe, Iowa, pending approval from the MSHSL board.

IN OTHER NEWS …

--New Prague boys basketball coach Tim Dittberner announced he was stepping down from his coaching job. As I wrote during the boys statebasketball tournament, Dittberner took over as head coach when the late Jeff Gravon was dealing with cancer. Dittberner will remain as the principal at New Prague Middle School.

ORIGINAL POST

Good morning from MSHSL World Headquarters, a stone’s throw off Interstate 94 in Brooklyn Center. Committee meetings are taking place, leading up to the start of the board meeting at 9:30.

Updates to come …
A New Football Class Has Been Approved4/7/2011
The MSHSL board of directors has voted to add a seventh class in football, beginning in the 2012 season.

The new Class 6A will include the 32 largest schools in the state (others may choose to opt up to 6A).

The board also voted against going to section football scheduling during the regular season.

Using enrollment numbers for the 2011-12 school year, here are the largest teams in Minnesota ...
1  Wayzata   3060
2  Eden Prairie   3007
3  Minnetonka   2750
4  Stillwater Area   2670
5  Champlin Park   2571
6  Blaine   2551
7  Burnsville   2530
8  Anoka H.S. (Coop)  2521
9  Edina   2436
10  White Bear Lake Area   2257
11  Prior Lake   2154
12  Eagan   2147
13  Maple Grove   2142
14  Coon Rapids   2120
15  Hopkins   2070
16  Eastview   2056
17  Centennial   2017
18  Rosemount   2013
19  Osseo (Coop)  1996
20  Forest Lake   1952
21  Roseville Area   1840
22  Elk River (Coop)  1792
23  Robbinsdale Armstrong   1789
24  Lakeville South   1774
25  Minneapolis South (Coop)  1744
26  Shakopee   1736
27  Woodbury   1715
28  Lakeville North   1711
29  Brainerd   1685
30  Mounds View   1671
31  North   1671
32  Park   1656
A Busy Day At MSHSL World Headquarters4/7/2011
Whew. The dust has begun to settle from today’s meeting of the MSHSL board of directors. The big headlines come from football, with two big decisions.

First, the board voted down the concept of revamping football scheduling. There has been much discussion of going to section football scheduling during the regular season, because of the issues some schools face in finding enough opponents to fill eight games. Such a move would have changed the face of many conferences, but the board seemed to base its decision (on a roll vote vote of 12 to 5 after a voice vote was unclear) against section football on questions about changing football for everyone because a minority of schools are having problems.

The one big change that was approved was the addition of a seventh class in football, beginning with the 2012 season (it passed on a voice vote, so no roll call of votes was taken). It will be composed of the largest 32 schools in the state … but it’s not that simple. A few of the largest 32 schools will opt down from Class 6A, and some who are not among the biggest 32 will opt up to play in 6A.

All we know at this point is that 6A will have 32 schools, split into four eight-team sections. All will be metro schools with the exception of Brainerd, which is 29th by enrollment on the list of schools that will play 5A football in 2011. Using the current number of football schools, the football classes should look something like this in 2012 …

6A: 32 teams
5A: 48 teams
4A: 48 teams
3A: 54 teams
2A: 61 teams
1A: 61 teams
Nine-man: 77 teams

Currently, football is structured like this…
5A: 57 teams
4A: 51 teams
3A: 65 teams
2A: 66 teams
1A: 66 teams
Nine-man: 77 teams


There are many, many questions to be answered. Will state football semifinals move from two days to three at the Metrodome, or will 6A semifinals be played elsewhere? Will the Prep Bowl add a third title game on Saturday? How will 6A sections and the postseason be structured? The board has more work to do on this.

--Before the board voted, Wayzata athletic director Jaime Sherwood, a former president of the MSHSL board, asked the members to approve section football scheduling. In recent years Wayzata has played games in Wisconsin, llinois and Michigan, and last season Wayzata played only six regular-season games en route to the Class 5A state championship. Next season, Wayzata plans to play Carmel Catholic (Ill.) in Dubuqe, Iowa, pending approval from the MSHSL board.

--In other football news from Thursday, the Ohio High School Athletic Association board of directors denied a request from football coaches to begin holding spring football practice.

--How many football classes do other states have? That was a popular question on Facebook and Twitter after the MSHSL board voted. Here’s a sampling: Texas has 12; Michigan and Illinois have eight; Wisconsin, Missouri and Kansas have seven; Iowa, South Dakota, Ohio, Kentucky and Washington have six; Indiana has five; North Dakota has four.

OTHER MATTERS …

This was a lengthy board meeting, with many other discussion items and decisions. Here’s a taste of what else happened …

--The addition of three wheelchair events (800 meters, 1,600 meters, shot put) in track and field was approved for regular-season, postseason and state meet competition, beginning immediately.

--The board approved a change in the schedule for the state baseball tournament in all three classes, for this year’s tournament only. Currently, each class uses two fields to play quarterfinal and semifinal games on the same day. Under the current plan, two teams in each class are eliminated on the first day. With the change for this year, only quarterfinals will be played on the first day (at one site), with semifinals, consolation games and third-places game held the second day. All championship games are scheduled for Target Field. The format beyond 2011 will be decided at a later date.

--Holy Family Catholic was placed in the Wright County Conference.

IN OTHER NEWS …

--New Prague boys basketball coach Tim Dittberner announced he was stepping down from his coaching job. As I wrote during the boys state basketball tournament, Dittberner took over as head coach when the late Jeff Gravon was dealing with cancer. Dittberner will remain as the principal at New Prague Middle School.

And finally, in case you missed it in an earlier post, here is the list of the largest football teams in Minnesota (using enrollment numbers for the 2011-12 school year). But remember, these aren’t necessarily the 32 teams that will play 6A football in 2012…

1 Wayzata 3060
2 Eden Prairie 3007
3 Minnetonka 2750
4 Stillwater Area 2670
5 Champlin Park 2571
6 Blaine 2551
7 Burnsville 2530
8 Anoka H.S. (Coop) 2521
9 Edina 2436
10 White Bear Lake Area 2257
11 Prior Lake 2154
12 Eagan 2147
13 Maple Grove 2142
14 Coon Rapids 2120
15 Hopkins 2070
16 Eastview 2056
17 Centennial 2017
18 Rosemount 2013
19 Osseo (Coop) 1996
20 Forest Lake 1952
21 Roseville Area 1840
22 Elk River (Coop) 1792
23 Robbinsdale Armstrong 1789
24 Lakeville South 1774
25 Minneapolis South (Coop) 1744
26 Shakopee 1736
27 Woodbury 1715
28 Lakeville North 1711
29 Brainerd 1685
30 Mounds View 1671
31 North 1671
32 Park 1656


BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 566
*Miles John has driven: 8,807

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn