This is a little dated, but a couple of weeks back, the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union decided in May to expand to five classes of competition in basketball, golf, softball and volleyball, starting in the 2012-2013 school year.
The largest class, 5A, will be composed of the 40 largest schools in the state in terms of enrollment. Class 4A will be comprised of the next 48 schools, 3A the next 64, 2A the next 96, and the remaining schools will be classified 1A.
The move comes after a year of study by IGHSAU staff and after recommendations to move to five classes by the IGHSAU Representative Council and the basketball, softball, and volleyball advisory committees.
"We asked each group to approach the topic with the goals of ensuring that our classification system was fair and that it balanced the number of schools per class and the enrollment range per class," IGHSAU assistant director Joel Oswald said. "We also wanted to be sure we were not placing unreasonable demands on schools and students regarding travel, loss of school time, or putting any schools at a distinct competitive disadvantage."
The new classification structure allows for an approximate 2:1 enrollment ratio in each class, except for the smallest of 1A schools. It also ensures that no team would have to play more than four regional games to qualify for the state tournament. State tournament dates will remain unchanged in the four sports. More games will be played on the current dates.
"The most important thing is that eight more teams and communities have the opportunity to reap the positive life experiences and prestige of qualifying for the state tournament," said IGHSAU executive director Mike Dick.
Probably the most important point of this action, from a local standpoint, would be in terms of competition against schools of equal size. According to the 2010-2011 BEDS documents, used by the Iowa High School Athletic Association (Boys) to determine their classifications, here are the enrollments of students in grades 9-11 in the four high schools in Palo Alto County: Ruthven-Ayrshire has 48 students; Graettinger/Terril has 77; West Bend-Mallard has 78 and Emmetsburg has 170 students.
Using those BEDS numbers, Emmetsburg would be a 2A school, while West Bend-Mallard, Graettinger/Terril and Ruthven-Ayrshire would all compete in Class 1A.
I don't see a problem with this change, but I would think that perhaps the Girls' Union and the Boys Association should perhaps sit down at the table to coordinate such a move. Currently, the boys are organized under differing structures one for football, with six classes, while basketball, golf, track and baseball are in four classes and wrestling is in three classes.
Other states do have just one governing organization for their high school athletics, but Iowa has been able to maintain two entities, who have done excellent jobs of providing opportunities and organization for our young student athletes. Hopefully, they will be able to continue to do so.