Speaking of Sports

By John Fragodt, Sports Reporter

I’ve often wondered how the Minnesota State High School League comes up with the section alignments for sports.  It seems the largest schools have the easiest path to state, while the smaller schools need to win more games to get a chance to play at the state level.  In basketball, there are some Class A schools that have to win as many as five games to earn a state berth, while some Class AAA and AAAA schools have to win only two games to earn a state berth.  Is that fair?  No way.  In fact, some Class A sections have up to 21 schools, giving them a 1/21th chance to make state each year, while other sections have eight or less, giving them a 1/8th or 1/7th chance to make state each year.  How does that seem fair, or equal?

Football is a little better, but there are still a lot of inequalities.  Just because you’re a larger school doesn’t mean you should have an easier path to “state.”   In Class 6A, there are only four sections and all have eight teams, while in Class 5A, there is one section with seven schools, five with six and two more with only five schools each.  In those sections, the top team only has to win two games to make “state” and the first one is normally against a fairly poor team.

Class 4A isn’t much better with one section having seven teams, four with six and three others with five, while in Class 3A, one section has eight teams, six have seven and one (Section 4AAA), has just four schools.  What’s that all about?  In Class 2A, three of the sections have eight schools, one has seven, three have six and one has five, while in Class A, all but two of the sections have eight schools and the other two have seven.  There’s also a little discrepancy in Nine-man football with five sections having eight schools, two having six and one with only four schools.  Why?

I thought the MSHSL was all about fairness, but I guess I’m wrong when you consider some schools have an easier path to “state” than others.  Why should schools like Edina, Blake, Minnetonka, St. Thomas Academy, etc., have two or three times better chances at reaching state than schools like Minnewaska?

•  Looking at some of the tougher football sections in Class 2A, Sections 4AA and 5AA are loaded.  The top six teams in 4AA are 6-2 or better, including Mpls. North (8-0), St. Agnes (7-1) and Rush City (7-1), which was seeded sixth despite losing only one time this fall.

Section 5AA meanwhile, includes only six teams, but the top three are EVW (8-0), Royalton (6-2) and Kimball Area (8-0) and the sixth-place team is ACGC (3-5), which not many teams would want to face in the opening round.  Kimball was seeded behind Royalton because it plays mostly Class A schools during the regular-season.  Kimball’s reward for going undefeated is playing ACGC in the opening round.  The Falcons won their final game 68-32 over Benson.

Another tough section is 5A where BOLD, Dawson-Boyd and Lakeview are all 7-1 and Minneota is 6-2 and earned the fourth seed and potential semifinal game against BOLD; if it can get by YME (5-3) in the opener.

Contrast that to Section 4AAA, which has only four teams — Breck (3-5), Mpls. Henry (6-2), St. Croix Lutheran (3-5) and Mpls. Roosevelt (0-8).  Breck, which finished sixth of seven teams in the Twin City Blue division, earned the top seed, despite finishing below .500.  Breck, which was outscored in its five losses by a 164-61 margin, will only have to beat a winless team and then another team which it has already defeated this fall to earn a state berth with a 5-5 record . . . or Section 7AA, which has a top-seeded Moose Lake-Willow River at 7-1, but no other team is better than 4-4 and there are only five teams; or Section 4AAAA, whose top team is Fridley (6-2) and no other team is better than 4-4; or Section 5AAAA, whose top team (Holy Angels) of only 6 teams is 5-3.

Yes, I’ve always said it’s not always about how good you are; it’s more about who you have to play.  Just ask the Minnewaska Area girls tennis team, which had three teams in Section 8A that were ranked among the top seven teams in state while another section (3A) consisted of teams that the Lakers would have easily defeated based on regular-season scores.