Tom Critchley paused to collect his thoughts, more than a decade’s worth of dashed basketball dreams running through his mind, before shaking his head, sighing and beginning his concession speech.
On a day when the Minnesota State High School League board of directors approved an additional class of competition in the soccer, volleyball and cross-country state tournaments, Critchley and the basketball leadership’s two proposals failed in their efforts to change the sport.
A plan to implement a shot clock, designed in part to improve the game’s pace, stalled when the board voted it down 13-5, with one member abstaining. Earlier in the league’s board meeting, a proposed Sweet 16 state tournament format didn’t get that far. No board member made a motion to bring the proposal to a vote.
Critchley, executive director of the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association, said the board “dishonored the advisory committee process by not bringing it to a vote,” said “This is something we’ve been working on for minimally 12 years.”
League associate director Bob Madison, who oversees basketball, said he heard from various regions that opposed a reconfiguration of the final 16 teams because “if they lose the regional section final rivalry, they lose a geographic rival and potentially, the gate receipts.”
The 35-second shot clock proposal, which also failed last June, was voted down by 11 of the 16 region committees. In addition, the league’s activities directors advisory committee voted 14-2 against.
“The activities directors are what’s slowing it down,” Critchley said. “When they vote on something in a region committee meeting, members will ask, ‘How did the activities directors vote?’ That’s the same thing here. We’ll have to make a stronger effort in engaging the activities directors on the advisory committee.”
Concerns about the shot clock plan included costs and personnel. Nodding to the unanimous approval from outstate Regions 6A and 8A, Critchley said, “The smallest schools can find people to work.”
The additional classes approved in cross-country, soccer and volleyball begin with the 2021-22 school year. The board added a third class to cross-country and soccer, and bumped volleyball to four classes.
Advocates in all three sports pointed to increased state tournament opportunities for student-athletes and communities as well as better competitive balance.
The board’s approval signals more work to be done in terms of securing venues and coping with the rising cost of renting space for added events. It’s possible some consolation games will be played at sites other than U.S. Bank Stadium for soccer and Xcel Energy Center for volleyball.
Tennis, meanwhile, remained a two-class sport when no board member made a motion to bring a proposal to add a third class to a vote.
A high school league moratorium on adding classes for sports ending in December, allowing sports to expand for the first time since 2016.
Cross-country last expanded in 1975 for boys, 1978 for girls. Soccer most recently grew in 1997. Volleyball, the highest participation sport in the state for girls and second overall to football, stood at three classes since 1999.
McDonald gets extension
“We’re in overtime” is how attorney Lee Hutton III described the eligibility status of his client, Minnehaha Academy junior Craig McDonald.
McDonald, a top football prospect who verbally committed to Iowa State, was declared ineligible to play in the upcoming school year. A league bylaw limits student-athletes to 12 consecutive semesters of eligibility from seventh through 12th grade. McDonald, a 6-2, 185-pound safety who played a key role in the SMB Wolfpack’s 2018 Class 4A championship run, repeated the eighth grade.
McDonald, with about a dozen teammates in the room, addressed the board, urging members to reconsider their decision.
“It would be really unfortunate if I couldn’t play my senior year and finish it out with my teammates who I grew up with,” McDonald said.
The board approved a motion to further review McDonald’s case.