High School Sports

Deadline arrives for schools voting on 4A split

Will the Class 4A schools vote to split into two divisions for five sports? It’s a question that Pratt principal Steve Blankenship has pondered frequently since late April when the Kansas State High School Activities Association’s board of directors voted to allow 4A to decide.

Monday is the deadline for Class 4A schools to turn in their yes or no vote and Blankenship said he’s feeling apprehensive.

“I don’t know where we’re at,” said Blankenship, one of the architects of the proposal. He knows there are leagues, such as the Big Seven, the CNC and Central Kansas League that support it.

But waiting on the announcement has been difficult.

For the proposal to pass and split 4A into two divisions for football, basketball, softball, baseball and volleyball, at least 33 of 64 schools, a simple majority, must vote yes.

Ten of the 16 Wichita-area 4A schools responded to a survey on the issue. Eight of those 10 voted yes for the proposal. Six of the respondents were from the 32 biggest schools in 4A with four voting yes.

Buhler’s Mike Berblinger, the school’s current principal and incoming superintendent, said he voted yes.

“I see it passing,” said Berblinger, whose school was 4A’s ninth largest with 642 students. “Simply looking at it, if you’re 32 or smaller, why wouldn’t you vote for it?”

The enrollments of Class 4A schools ranges from Topeka Highland Park’s 729 to 258 at Rock Creek and Frontenac. That ratio, 2.83, is greater than any class other than 1A. Class 1A has a 6.73 ratio but has already split into two divisions for basketball and volleyball.

By splitting into two divisions — if the proposal passes it would immediately change for basketball, softball, baseball and volleyball — it would be easier for schools to reach state because there will only be 32 teams, like Class 6A and 5A.

Football wouldn’t change until 2014-15 because it is in the final year of its two-year district schedule.

One of the reasons Berblinger said he voted yes — both a school’s principal and district superintendent needed to sign off on the ballot — was because it helped football’s playoff schedule.

In 4A and 3A, football teams play their final regular-season game on Thursday, then play the first two playoff rounds on the following Tuesday and Saturday.

“That’s brutal for athletes and coaches,” Berblinger said. “We looked at the pros and cons and there weren’t too many cons. If we voted against it, how does it benefit us? It really doesn’t.

“If we could eliminate one round of basketball to get to the state tournament, eliminate the Thursday, Tuesday, Saturday in football, that’s a positive.”

McPherson, the fifth-biggest school in 4A with 690 students, voted no to the proposal because, according to athletic director Shane Backhus, adding an eighth classification didn’t benefit their students.

“As we looked at it, the one advantage we did find was the proposal would eliminate the need for football programs to play three games in 10 days,” Backhus wrote in an e-mail. “ Past that we did not see an advantage for McPherson. Having said that, if I were at a school in the bottom 25 percent of 4A enrollment, we would have voted yes.”

A fear of increased costs led El Dorado, the 20th biggest school in 4A with 561 students, to vote no to the proposal.

“If this goes through, one of the things affected is the postseason,” El Dorado principal Kevin House said. “If you look at the state and the 4A schools in the western part of the state, they are few and far between.”

Currently, El Dorado plays Circle, Augusta and Hesston in district football.

“But if that changes, Hesston moves down, maybe Circle moves down and instead of us driving eight miles to Towanda, we might be going to Goodland,” House said. “That makes that an overnight trip.”