The fourth bullet point of the Kansas State High School Activities Association mission statement reads, “Our Association is strengthened by equity and diversity.”
Equity is the key word. It suggests KSHSAA wants everything to be fair. But for the competitive landscape to truly be fair, KSHSAA needs to make some big changes.
How can KSHSAA claim things are equal if Classes 6A and 5A each have 32 teams each, but Classes 4A, 3A and 2A all have have 64 teams? And Class 1A? There are 96 schools in that division. That’s not equal. With a small field of competitors, it’s much easier to win a state title if you’re in one of the bigger classes.
We have way too many champions in Kansas. As a millennial, I think my generation is coddled and this notion of having eight state football and basketball champions is beyond absurd given how Kansas ranks 33rd in state population with 2.9 million people. Texas, second in population, and Illinois, fifth, have eight classes for football. Illinois then goes down to four classes for basketball.
Proposed KSHSAA Changes
- Reduce the number of classes
- Expand number of schools in each class
- Expand seasons by two weeks
- Play all championships at one location
Winning a championship is supposed to be difficult. It’s supposed to be earned. What good are we teaching our kids if it’s championship trophy this and participation medal that? Here’s how we can fix the system:
Reduce the number of divisions
My first solution for football is to make five classes. We combine 6A and 5A and add private schools based on success. So in this case, we’d have 65 teams because Bishop Miege moves up, but nobody moves down. The 4A split goes away, and 4A become its own unified class once again. Classes 3A and 2A-1A remain the same, while we combine the two eight-man football classes. (Why do we have two eight-man classes? I don’t know).
Forget having every team make the playoffs.The tiebreaker would be based on strength of schedule. A team would have to meet a wins requirement and then they would be ranked based on how many wins their opponents have.
You then take the top 32 teams across the state per class and seed them accordingly. So for the western part of the state, which was extremely strong compared to the east this year in 6A and 5A, they’d receive more favorable seeding.
Play championship games at the same site
The next change I’d make would be to play all the state championships at one site. Now with only five games, you could play two on Friday and three on Saturday. This allows media to watch all the games and allows players in the smaller classes to be recruited as coaching staffs don’t have to pick and choose what sites to go to. Plus it drums up bigger crowds. This could be played in Manhattan, Lawrence or even Children’s Mercy Park, home of Sporting KC.
We have the state track meet at the same location. Why not have football or basketball in one spot?
When it comes to basketball, I suggest we take the top 73 in terms of enrollment and create one big class. It would be a huge bracket, but you could break it up by location. Once the top eight get to state, we then seed according to record. This eliminates sub-state, which I think is a terrible way of determining who goes to state. Winning two games to get to state is too easy. Also, you look at the current Class 4A and Bishop Miege and Eudora are in the same sub-state this year. So one of those top teams won’t play for a state title? I think that’s highway robbery.
The next two or three classes would need to be massaged, but 353 member schools divided by four gives us approximately 88 schools per class. But we don’t need to have equal numbers.
For soccer, we combine the current Class 5A and 6A and then add teams based on success. We don’t need even numbers for the playoffs because we can have play-in games.
Expand the season
Let’s expand the season. We start the football season two weeks earlier at the beginning of August, which puts us on track with Missouri. It allows teams to have two-a-days before school starts because trying to have practice at 5 a.m., then class, then more practice after is taxing.
This shift would allow schools to start basketball earlier and then the spring sports to start earlier, too. Because we’re playing championships at one site, the girls could play the weekend before the boys. The other change I’d offer is to let the seasons go into June.
With the extra time, you could add a few more games for soccer, basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball. Make it 25 games instead of 20.
The media can’t cover state soccer, baseball, softball and track at the same time when they fall on the same weekend in May. Let’s let baseball go until the second weekend of June. Softball could wrap up the weekend prior and soccer and track could end the final weekend of May.
Would the changes that I’ve laid out be substantial? Sure. But they’d be better for Kansas high school athletics. It’s time KSHSAA starts thinking through how to improve the experience for athletes and fans.