LEXINGTON – The KHSAA Board of Control conducted its first meeting of the 2015-16 schoolyear on Monday at the Owensboro Convention Center. Among the many agenda items discussed, the Board executed a lengthy review of its current classification and alignment system for postseason play, and the ramifications of possible expansion of classification to other team sports. This review was requested by the Board after receiving a proposal concerning the classification of baseball and the format of all rounds of the postseason baseball tournament from Lawrence County High School during the 2014-15 school year. Following the receipt of the requested changes from Lawrence County, the Board requested information for a broader review of the issues in classification in the other team sports, not simply a review of baseball.
During the discussion and review, six major points were concluded when reviewing the situations from other states when compared to the current setup of championships: 1) classification nearly always adds expenses, in particular, travel, and in almost all cases, reduces overall program revenue at all levels; 2) In many cases, new class systems simply shift which teams are winning awards, not necessarily resulting in opportunities for awards and recognition; 3) It is recognized that problems do exist in some areas, however, those issues should be addressed in other more specific manners such as tournament formats and executions without wholesale and irreversible change; 4) If problems exist with specific schools appearing to get disproportionate advantage, then those specific schools should be addressed; 5) If problems exist due to specific rules including the bylaws, then those rules should be addressed; and 6) Tournament formats should be addressed by the board if the board feels like an inadequacy exists in any sport or sport-activity. Following this review, the Board unanimously reaffirmed its commitment to the current model without enrollment based classification for baseball, basketball, soccer, softball and volleyball.
“The Board takes very seriously its responsibility not just to maintain and promote current operations, but to evaluate potential change when necessary. After this review, our Board is firmly and unanimously convinced that change in overall structure related to classification is neither necessary nor desired,” said Board of Control President Jeff Saylor. “Our current setup is a blend of flexibility and tradition and serves the needs of our student-athletes very well.”
“Many times, thorough review of potential changes yields a result that change is not necessary. I think that was the result of this discussion,” said KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett. “The Board (and staff) take very seriously the duty to analyze our methods for conducting the best championships for our student-athletes, who only get one short window of time to enjoy the greatest competition level around, a high school championship event. The data simply illustrated that while change is possible, it was not in the best interest of the student-athletes of our state or the member schools and the various constituent groups represented.”
As a corollary to that classification discussion, the Board considered the request from Lawrence County to add a classification system for baseball, and revise the tournament format in all rounds of baseball. During the discussion and review, several issues with that proposal were cited including: 1) A significant increase in travel; 2) With adoption of classes, based on other state information, structure of classes will not simply be enrollment based, but likely need to include other factors; 3) the proposal called for elimination of “playing up”, which is inconsistent with the Board’s current desired structure in classified sports; 4) the proposal called solely for baseball changes, when softball and soccer utilize similar size squads; 5) While hard coding playing dates for specific rounds may seem at first glance to be a good idea, baseball tournaments are being played during the last few weeks of school or right after school is out where local schools need flexibility due to graduation conflicts and other late season activities; 6) The proposal left very little flexibility for bad weather or other schedule conflicts; and 7) the semistate round that was in place before was not favored by the majority of schools and resulted in the change being made to a 16 team state tournament.
Following the discussion of the Lawrence County proposal, the Board unanimously voted to not accept the proposal for changes in baseball. The Board directed Association staff to return at the next Board of Control meeting with possible alternatives for the format and dates for the state baseball tournament as part of the evaluation of the first six years of play with 16 teams. The current format of bringing 16 teams to one site has been in place since 2010.
“The Lawrence County proposal was very professionally presented and contained a great review of the impact of changes made in the baseball tournament format over the years. Our Board was most appreciative of the time and energy compiling the information as submitted,” added Tackett. “It is the duty of our staff, working hand in hand with our Board, to continually review all championships, and we will use this data and our own information to ensure we provide the experience for student-athletes that balances the needs of those students and the many other factors that influence tournament structure such as school schedules, finances (both revenue and expenses) weather, and comparable activities. If changes are deemed necessary, I feel certain that our entire staff will feel confident in recommending them to the Board and our Board will give them due consideration.”
The Commissioner presented the results from the Association’s triennial survey of the membership, conducted earlier this summer, the results of which designated Dance as the one sport or sport-activity to receive enough interest to be considered for future adoption. The Board directed staff to return at the November meeting with a report on the necessary steps for implementing a championship in Dance in the future, including a complete fiscal analysis of the impact to the KHSAA and all member schools and its impact on other programs, along with an update on the addition of Rifle Marksmanship, which was previously approved by the Board. Several sports and activities had a percentage of schools respond in favor of a championship being conducted, but none with enough schools in favor to allow the Board to consider the addition of a championship. (Click here to view complete survey results)
“It is so vitally important that our member schools have this regular opportunity to evaluate options for championship play and provide this input. With our emphasis on opportunities for ALL students, not simply the outstanding athletically gifted, and in particular, our need to continue to highlight and potentially expand female championship opportunities, this instrument is invaluable,” said Tackett. “We will take these results and provide our Board the best possible information to make a decision that balances the needs and wants of the member schools with the real world cost impacts to both our members and the Association, and will continue to keep our eye on new and emerging opportunities for student involvement in sports and sport-activities. We are at such a critical time when the age old question of ‘can we afford it’ has to always be tempered with the response ‘can we afford not to’ due to the overwhelming evidence that students involved in school based sports and sport-activities perform at a significantly higher level in the classroom.”
The Board also confirmed a number of championship sites for the 2015-16 season, approving the University of Kentucky for Track & Field, Collins Eastland in Lexington for Bowling and Kentucky Basketball Academy in Lexington for Archery. The Board also discussed the future site plans for Bass Fishing, with a decision to review the matter further at the next meeting.
In other action Monday, the Board:
– Heard a report from the Commissioner on a change in duties with the Association staff with Associate Commissioner Butch Cope taking on the role of Supervisor of Officials and Policy Board Liaison and Assistant Commissioner Sarah Bridenbaugh assuming the role of Middle School Coordinator, per 702 KAR 7:065.
– Had an initial discussion on bracket rotation per realignment discussion for 5A and 6A in football. The Board directed the staff to bring specific options to the October meeting for all classes for further review.
– Approved a second reading on a revised change in policy regarding the penalty for violating the prime date requirement for girls’ basketball schedule. The new policy includes a maximum fine of $500 under the provisions of Bylaw 27, along with other possible sanctions based on the integrity of the compliance process and past history of the member school.
– Approved a first reading of a recommended coaching Code of Ethics for use by membership schools, with final adoption slated for October.
– Approved the provisional membership of Ashland Holy Family Collegiate, with postseason eligibility to begin in 2017-18 following a two-year candidacy period.
– Approved the certified audit of the Association for the 2013-14 school year as performed by the auditing and accounting firm of Hicks and Associates.
– Heard a report from staff about research from the NFHS on the potential development of a required pitch count rule for baseball to possibly replace the current innings-pitched basis of the current rule.
– Received information from the NFHS regarding the High School RIO data system, which collects data for the high school level regarding injuries in sport.