Nothing is an emotional firestarter quite like discussing sports classifications in Kansas.
As many sports fans know, Kansas probably has way too many classifications. In many sports, for example, we crown eight champions.
Given our state’s minimal population when compared to others around the country (Kansas ranks 33rd), that’s excessive.
But now there have been two proposals brought forth by KSHSAA, including a football-only proposal that would reshuffle the deck and bring back Class 1A. 8-Man football would not be affected.
If this proposal is passed, McPherson High would be in Class 4A (and there would be just one division) and would be the fourth-largest school in the class, based on this year’s enrollment.
The area schools would be greatly impacted. Smoky Valley would drop to 3A, Hesston to 2A, and Inman and Moundridge would be 1A. Canton-Galva and Little River would remain 8-Man.
Another proposal is for all other sports other than football. If it passes, McPherson returns to Class 5A.
MHS Athletic Director Shane Backhus has been integral in the discussions.
“I think the football proposal will pass,” Backhus said today. “The overall classification (proposal) will be more difficult as there has been a lot of discussion of the pros and cons especially at the 6A, 5A and 1A level. We have been debating the classification system for years. The No. 1 complaint was the difference in ratio between the largest and smallest schools in some classifications such as 4A (which is why it split) and 3A. The classification committee spent a lot of time on that and the new proposal fixes that issue.”
For MHS athletics, it’s always been about playing the best competition available, which is why Backhus schedules games and tournaments against larger schools. The general theory is that you only get better by playing the top teams, even if it means you have to incur some losses in the process.
“Right now, the majority of the coaches at MHS are in favor of making the change, so we are leaning toward a ‘yes’ vote on both proposals,” Backhus said.
Let’s be honest, the high-profile sports are the ones that draw the most interest from fans. MHS should be in 4A for football given its numbers, even though it did make the 5A playoffs annually under coach Tom Young. However in other sports, McPherson teams have proven time and again they can compete on the bigger stage.
When you look at basketball — I keep going back to that because there seems to be more passion from Bullpup fans for basketball than any other sport — MHS’ boys won six Class 5A state titles in the 1990s, while the girls were the state champion the final three years of that decade.
Since moving to Class 4A in 2011-12, MHS’ boys have won two state championships and the girls one. When you look at how the MHS boys have done in their invitational and the girls in their classic, they’ve been right there with the 6A and 5A teams that have been brought in.
I’m sure the big question of many fans’ minds is: Where does Miege fall? It seems like the private school power has been a chief thorn in the side not just of the basketball teams, but other teams as well, especially soccer. Miege and MHS would still be housed in the same class for all sports if both pass, so the public school-private school debate will continue to rage like an inferno.