When the Kansas High School Activities Association announced in September its football classifications for 2018 and 2019, more than a few Hillsboro and Marion football fans dropped their jaws.
At the time, both football teams were paired in Class 3A district play, as they have for several years. Suddenly, the classification for both schools changed dramatically. Both Marion and Hillsboro were assigned to Class 1A for the next two seasons based on enrollment figures for ninth, 10th, and 11th grades.
A drop of one class maybe, but two classes?
“It looks a lot worse than it is,” said Robert Rempel, activities director for USD 410-Hillsboro.
While class assignments are still tied to enrollment, KSHSAA reshuffled its classifications following a long statewide conversation with activities directors.
By reshuffling enrollment parameters, KSHSAA unified the two Class 4A divisions into a single class, Rempel said. At the same time, ADs and coaches in Class 3A had another goal: getting rid of the Tuesday game in the state playoff system.
Because Class 3A has had 64 schools, it essentially required an extra playoff round to keep the state playoffs on schedule for “Championship Saturday.”
The pattern had been that 3A schools would complete district play on a Thursday, with qualifying teams playing again the following Tuesday and again on Saturday to keep up.
“Along with the disparity in school size, the Tuesday game was a big part of what drove the classification change,” Rempel said. “The intensity, speed and physicality of varsity football is a lot for kids to handle three times in 10 days.”
The classification changes will impact a number of schools with enrollments that are either at the high end or the low end of their current classification.
By redefining enrollment numbers, KSHSAA has unified Class 4A instead of having a 4A-Div. I and 4A-Div. II. Also, reducing the number of Class 3A schools from 64 to 48 will eliminate the need for a Tuesday game.
“Class 3A next year will be what is 4A-Div. II and the upper part of 3A this year,” Rempel said. “Class 2A next year will be the bottom part of the current 3A and the upper part of 2A.”
For other sports, Hillsboro been a Class 2-1A school the past two years.
“This year’s 2-1A is next year’s 1A,” Rempel said. “So we would have been 2A if they hadn’t adjusted the numbers. It looks like we dropped two classes when we really just dropped one.”
Based on grades 9-11 enrollment, this will be the classification parameters in terms of number of teams and enrollment:
• Class 6A will continue to have 32 schools..
• Class 5A will again have 32 schools.
• Class 4A, which had 64 teams divided into two divisions, will have 32 schools.
• Class 3A, which had 64 schools will now have 48 schools.
• Class 2A, known as 2-1A during this past cycle, will have 48 schools.
• Class 1A will have 31 schools.
• For 8-Man football, two divisions: Division I will have 48 school; Division II will have 52 schools.
Rempel said the new football classifications will have an impact on league play and season schedules.
“District play is going to be different,” Rempel said. “It used to be that Weeks 7, 8 and 9 were district (games). Then, who ever won or got second place, played on.
“Now, since we’re 1A, we’ll have four teams in our district—that’s still the same—but our district play will be Weeks 6, 7, 8. Then, everybody will play a playoff game Week 9.”
Rempel said the Week 9 opponent won’t be known until the completion of Week 8. The four-team district to which Hillsboro is assigned will be matched with a four-team district that includes Yates Center, Uniontown, Pleasanton and Pittsburg-St. Mary’s Colgan.
“My understanding is the No. 1 (team) in our district (based on district record) will play the No. 4 in the other district,” Rempel said. “And the No. 2 and No. 3 teams will play each other.
“That means if you’re one of the top two teams, you’ll have a home game Week 9, and if you’re one of the bottom two, you’ll be traveling a lot,” he said.
Reducing league play
The new system will further dilute the significance of “league play” for football.
Hillsboro is a member of the Central Kansas League, which for the past two football seasons has been comprised of four 4A schools (Pratt, Larned, Smoky Valley, Nickerson) and seven 3A schools (Haven, Hoisington, Halstead, Lyons, Hesston, Kingman, Hillsboro).
Next year, every team in the CKL will be classified as 3A, except three schools: Lyons and Hoisington will be 2A; Hillsboro will be 1A.
“Everybody else (in the CKL) will have a six-team district while we have a four-team district,” Rempel said. “What that means is, our league basically schedules for three weeks. So, next year we have three league games (at the start of the season), because the rest of the teams start district play Week 4.’
For Rempel, that has meant scrambling for two additional football games.
“I have Week 4 and 5 open because everybody else in our league was matched with whatever (district games) the state said,” Rempel said.
He has since scheduled Sacred Heart (Sept. 21) and Wabaunsee (Sept. 28) to complete the schedule.
The meaning of league membership will change in other ways. Selecting all-league teams will be challenging since CKL coaches won’t see every team.
“This (past) year we didn’t see Pratt, Nickerson and Larned,” Rempel said.
For next season, Rempel said Hillsboro’s league schedule will be limited to three CKL schools: Hesston, Lyons and Haven.
“We’re not going to play two of the teams we’re used to playing, Halstead and Smoky Valley,” he said. “Those are schools we’ve always competed against, and there’s usually a good crowd. But that’s not going to happen now.”
Rempel being a 1A school will not last long.
He said two of the three classes KSHSAA uses for football classifications—sophomores (29) and juniors (35)—are the smallest classes in USD 410.
“Every other class, freshman through kindergarten, shows middle 40s to right about 50,” he said. “Now, 116 is the bottom enrollment for 2A. It would be close, but with any mid-40s included, all of a sudden we’re sitting pretty well in 2A.
“My speculation, unless things change, this will be one-time, two-year cycle in 1A and then we will be 2A.”