The state tournament desires of soccer, track and field, and basketball leaders and coaches appear closer to reality.
The Minnesota State High School League board of directors Thursday approved more options for state tournament classification and format. That could mean adding a third class of soccer and track and field — expansion sought by coaches associations of both sports.
Meanwhile, the boys’ and girls’ basketball coaches associations hope that maybe, just maybe, the league will be more receptive now to their long-desired NCAA March Madness tournament format.
No sports were granted permission to expand their number of classes. But the league approved lowering the number of participating teams needed for a two-class sport to become three classes, from 288 to 192. Track and field already met the previous criterion; soccer meets the new criterion.
“Our coaches, our board, would like to have three classes,” said Greg Juba, a member of the board of directors for the soccer coaches association, which submitted a similar proposal in 2015. “The next step is to reapply.”
Juba said his group mapped out ways to make a three-class tournament work, from adding neutral-site turf fields for quarterfinal games to getting all semifinals and finals played at U.S. Bank Stadium in the allotted three days.
Wayzata boys’ track and field coach Aaron Berndt, also the coaches association president, hopes the league is receptive to a forthcoming proposal to expand from two to three classes. The sport’s True Team state meet, run by its coaches association, already is three classes.
“The biggest thing is better participation in the state meet,” said Berndt, who said the current two-day format at Hamline University could accommodate a third class. “We put together a schedule that would work provided the weather doesn’t limit us.”
In basketball, Class 4A seeks a 64-team tournament format with multiple No. 1 seeds playing down to a champion. A plan to do that was shot down in 2012. But Tom Critchley, executive director of the boys’ basketball coaches association, said tweaks to the proposal, plus Thursday’s board action, “means the environment is more favorable to receiving our proposal. Now we can talk and see if there is a way to make it work.”
Also Thursday, board discussion continued on raising membership and activity fees paid by schools. League membership costs schools $100 annually, plus an additional $90 per activity offered. Raising the membership fee by $100 and activity fees by $20 each would bring the league an additional $250,000. Membership fees last increased before the 1990-91 school year, activities fees in 2009-10.