Fifty years ago this week, during what would be the final one-class boys’ basketball state tournament, there was no sentimental lamenting its impending demise.
Talk about changing the tournament format had been around since at least 1948, when a two-class tournament — Class A and Class B — was proposed. According to a report in the Minneapolis Tribune in March 1948, “the A and B proposal in many variations has been raging for years.”
Over 400 superintendents statewide voted by a 2-to-1 margin to recommend splitting the state tournament into two classes. But two months later, the Minnesota State High School League’s representative assembly — one member from each of 32 statewide districts — turned it down by a 27-5 vote.
The tournament debate continued into the 1960s.
In December 1969, a proposal quietly surfaced to change the format of the state tournament, which for many years had been the nation’s best-attended one-class state tournament. A brief item in the Dec. 5, 1969, edition of the Minneapolis Star mentioned that coaches had “presented an informal plan to change the state basketball tournament.”
The proposal “suggested that 16 teams — two from each of the eight regions in the state — be entered as opposed to the present eight. The finalists in each region would qualify for the tourney instead of playing off against each other, and the round of 16 would be played the weekend before the regular tournament. Then the surviving eight teams would play the rest of the tournament under the present format.”
On Jan. 30, 1970, high school league executive secretary B.H. Hill acknowledged to a Minnesota House education committee that the league was “studying four new formats for the state basketball tournament.”
The four alternatives were: the 16-team, two-week tournament proposal; a 16-team tournament played in one week; separate tournaments for metro area and outstate teams, with a possible playoff between the two champions; and a two-class system with the 64 largest schools in one class and the rest of the state in the other.
But during the week of the 1970 state tournament, held March 19-21 at Williams Arena, nothing was written in the Minneapolis papers suggesting that the 57th annual tournament would be the final one-class tournament.
Two days after it ended, Hill was quoted in the March 23 Minneapolis Tribune saying that in addition to the four plans being considered, “We may keep the tournament the same. It will be some time before any decision is made.”
In mid-May, Hill told the Minneapolis Tribune that “the athletic directors and the basketball coaches have voted on how they feel about this plan, while the principals and the superintendents have cast another vote.”
On May 22, the league announced that its board had voted unanimously to conduct a two-class state tournament beginning with the 1971 state tournament. The 64 largest schools would be in the Class AA tournament. The remaining 421 schools would compete in Class A.
Using the new format, 26 of the 57 state tournaments had been won by Class A schools. But only six of those had come since 1950 — including memorable championships by Edgerton in 1960 and Sherburn in 1970, in the final one-class tournament.