The Minnesota State High School League voted at a meeting Thursday to approve a seventh class in football, comprised of the 32 largest schools in the state in terms of enrollment, starting with the 2012 season.

The upcoming 2011 season will be played under the existing format, with six classes -- nine-man and 1-5A, with 5A being the largest.

While details such as the final list of schools and the playoff format are uncertain, beginning in 2012 the state will crown a Class 6A champion.

The two schools with the state's largest enrollments, Eden Prairie and Wayzata, are locks for Class 6A. Two schools not as certain for placement because of their smaller enrollments are perennial 5A power Cretin-Derham Hall and 4A power Totino-Grace. CDH coach Mike Scanlon said he wants to wait until he can talk with school officials before talking about whether the Raiders would opt-up to 6A. TG's Jeff Ferguson said his team, which opted-up to 5A for next season, said the Eagles would be considered a 4A school in a seven-class system. Will they opt-up two classes? Ferguson isn't sure.

Meanwhile, the concept of section scheduling — where the MSHSL would assign seven of a team’s eight regular season games each season — got voted down by both a state-wide task force of football coaches and activities directors and the MSHSL board.

Reducing the gaps in enrollment between the largest and smallest schools in all seven classes should create more competitive section playoffs. But some worry the new format really does not address scheduling.

“I don’t see it in anyway solving the issue,” Wayzata coach Brad Anderson said. The Trojans won the 2010 Class 5A state title but played only six of a possible eight regular season games. In recent years, the team has been forced to find games in Michigan and Wisconsin. Wayzata activities director Jaime Sherwood spoke at Thursday’s board meeting in favor of section scheduling.

As for creating a seventh class and a seventh state champion, MSHSL board member Kevin Merkle said, “I don’t think it’s about getting more teams championships. It’s trying to make for more competitive balance within the classes.”
--David La Vaque