Speaking of Sports

By John Fragodt, Sports Reporter

I mentioned in one of my last columns about the inequality of basketball and football sections and how the larger schools have a better chance to reach state than the smaller schools.  I decided to check out the volleyball sections, especially after the MSHSL added a fourth class this fall.  I thought for sure that would give the smaller schools a better chance to reach state.  It didn’t, but it did help out the largest schools.

Class AAAA and AAA schools have six sections with eight schools each and two with seven, meaning there are 62 schools in each class.  That also means the Class 4A and 3A volleyball schools have an 1/8th or 1/7th chance of reaching state every year. 

In contrast, the Class AA schools have one section with 18, one with 17, three with 16, two with 14 and one with 15 (126 total Class AA schools), and the Class A sections have one with 22, three with 21 and four with 20 (165 total Class A schools), meaning most of the A and AA schools have less than half the chance of reaching state than the Class 3A and 4A schools.

In addition, the Class A and AA schools need to win 4 or 5 matches to reach state, while the largest schools have to win 2 or 3.  Why is that?

I still couldn’t figure out the reasoning behind it so I contacted the MSHSL about that same thing.  I asked them why schools like Edina, Minnetonka, St. Thomas Academy, Eden Prairie, etc., seem to go to state multiple times each school year, while the smallest schools in the state make it to state as a team maybe once in a generation.  In conferring with one of the league secretaries of the MSHSL, he pointed out that the board has guidelines to go by when dividing up the teams, or adding classes.  However, there are options within each guideline, and the vote seems to be going toward the largest schools.

For example, for a three-class tournament, when there are 192 or more teams registered for a league sponsored activity, the league has several options; #1-to take the 96 largest teams by enrollment for Class AAA, the next 128 largest for AA and the remaining teams for Class A, or #2-it can take the largest 64 teams for AAA, the next 64 or 96 largest for AA and the balance of the teams to A, or #3-it can evenly split the teams.

When volleyball added a fourth class this year, the MSHSL had an option of going with an even split of all the teams with one-fourth of the schools in each class.  That would have put about 104 schools in each class.  Heck, they could have put 96 in Classes 4A and 3A and just over 100 schools in Classes 2A and A for a fairly-even breakdown.

However, the MSHSL clearly didn’t like that option so it put the largest 64 schools in Class 4A, the next 64 largest in Class 3A, the next 128 largest in Class 2A and the remaining schools were put in Class A.

The MSHSL uses those guidelines for all of its league-sponsored activities, but the option of dividing the teams evenly among the classes seems to never be used.  I guess the MSHSL isn’t getting enough complaints to consider going with that option.

Anyway, I’ve said my piece and now it’s time to move on.  Smaller schools will just have to work a little harder (sometimes two or three times as hard) to make it to state.