Changes coming to number of classes, public vs. private schools classification

For the first time in more than a decade the Missouri State High School Activities Association is addressing the public vs. private school issue.

Starting in the 2020-21 school year the state’s governing body for athletics will eliminate the multiplier, which has been used since 2006 as a form to level the playing field for public schools against private and charter schools.

During voting in the spring, MSHSAA schools overwhelmingly voted in favor of a proposal (294 to 133) for a ‘championship formula’ that will apply to the private and charter schools in the following sports: football, soccer, softball basketball, volleyball and baseball.

Also changing will be how class sizes are divided up in terms of competitiveness in enrollments, which passed 376 to 51, that could see additional classes added in the above sports.

Cross country, golf, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field and wrestling will continue to work under the current classification model and will not add additional classes as of now.

One caveat comes in girls wrestling where the sport had more participants then expected and it may have to go up from one class to two, while the boys would stay with four classes.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if there are two classes,” said Travis Dittemore, DeKalb’s superintendent who is the Northwest representative on the MSHSAA Board of Directors. “It is the fastest growing sport by far across the state. It’s new, so it makes sense. Everywhere I went people were ooing and awing over girls wrestling. When it came to fruition we had 800 out. We were looking for something like a couple hundred would be a part of it and all of a sudden there it was.”

Essentially most of the classes will operate at or near a 2.0 ratio, for example a school with 400 students will play schools no larger than 800 students.

The only class it won’t effect is Class 1, as there are schools with enrollments less than 20.

“I’ve seen the mockups of participating schools across the state and it is very doable from Class 2 on up if we expand to six classes in basketball,” Dittemore said. “In Class 2, we had schools with 210 kids and schools with 499 kids. Now, we will look to have a 2.0 ratio.”

The changes will be additional state champions and fewer teams per districts. 

How it will shake out will not really be known until enrollment count is done next school year – which accounts for students between ninth and 11th grade at the high school level. 

Those numbers — and the championship factor added in — will work hand-in-hand on who will be placed where and how many classes are needed.

Jason West, MSHSAA executive director of communications, stated it is possible baseball and volleyball would expand to six classes.

Each sport will be viewed by the advisory committee before a decision is made to add classes based on enrollment numbers and registration of athletes.

Enrollment and classifications are done each year now compared to two-year cycles in the past. West noted the enrollment count will feature new schools, with Capital City High School opening in Jefferson City and possibly a new school in the McCleur South School District in Ferguson. 

The new championship factor will go into effect but will be determined by how well teams have done over the past six seasons.

It is possible for a school to jump a class or two based on performance.

A good example of a school that will be moved up will be Incarnate Word Academy out of St. Louis.

The girls basketball team has won six of the past seven state titles in Class 4 and the one year it didn’t, they were a state semifinalist. Since the 2011-12 season when Republic won the Class 4 title, the only other public school to win a Class 4 girls basketball title was St. Joseph Benton in the 2015-2016 season.

The title run for IWA included wins over Lincoln College Prep, Carl Junction, St. Pius X, MICS (twice), Dexter and Webb City. 

The old 1.35 multiplier used bumped some Christian and Catholic schools up a classification after taking the head count. For schools with only one gender, the number is doubled and then the multiple has been added.

Now it will be a point system — which will be determined this fall — that will assign values for winning district, sectionals, quarterfinals, semifinals, and subsequent place games. 

It is possible for a school to have basketball teams in two different classes based on the new formula. Also, a sustained run of success will drop off after a while as the latest year is added following a school year. 

“I think it worked for a while but the playing fields weren’t always even,” Dittemore said. “To the point we seem to punish a handful of schools and never had an effect on 80 percent of them.”

In a nutshell, you win enough a school will go up and get a chance to prove themselves against tough competition. Dittemore noted it isn’t much different then how many competitive softball/baseball leagues works. Win at one level, you bump up to a higher level of competition. 

This change will help with the perception of private/charter schools having an unfair advantage in terms of landing student-athletes.

“When you try to put in a policy in place for one school, public or private, you got to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water,” Dittemore said. “Not everyone is doing it. It doesn’t reflect on every school in an advantageous position.”

There are examples of talented athletes across Missouri that don’t live in the state where they attend school.

This year, Pembroke Hill in Kansas City, Mo., had a third-round MLB draft pick in Marcus Smith, who hails from Kansas City, Kan.

Former Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Trent Green watched both of his sons play quarterback at Rockhurst, but the family lived in Kansas City. Two years ago, Park Hill wrestler Devin Winston lost a state championship match to DJ Shannon of Christian Brothers College High School — who had lived in Illinois.

Those are just some of the examples.

“Some schools have the ability to bring kids to their doors,” Dittemore said. “They have issues like public schools do, but they have issues we don’t. But when three schools all lost a kid to the same place, there is an appearance of recruiting.”

The success portion of the championship factor will be limited to team and not individual success, a question that was recently posed to Dittemore.

A cross country coach at the Class 1 school near St. Joseph, Dittemore was asked if a runner from a private school wins two state titles in a row would they move up a class? No, the rule only applies to teams, but Dittemore noted if a runner is winning a state championship and it is not enough for the team to have success with a top four finish then it shouldn’t be a concern.