Idaho’s first swing at using competitive history in its high school sports classifications led to major changes for the Treasure Valley.
Five teams currently in the 5A or 4A Southern Idaho Conferences will change leagues starting in the 2018-19 school year. Columbia, Nampa and Kuna will drop from 5A to 4A; Caldwell will remain at the 4A level despite 5A enrollment numbers; and Mountain Home will slide down to the 3A classification. The moves were approved as final readings Tuesday by the Idaho High School Activities Association in Coeur d’Alene.
Skyview is also moving up to 5A as planned. It petitioned to remain at the 4A level, but the state’s 4A state superintendents denied its appeal with a 14-5 vote.
The end result is a 10-team 5A SIC that will have Boise, Borah, Capital, Centennial, Eagle, Meridian, Mountain View, Rocky Mountain, Skyview and Timberline.
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A nine-team 4A Southern Idaho Conference will feature Bishop Kelly, Caldwell, Columbia, Emmett, Kuna, Middleton, Nampa, Ridgevue and Vallivue.
Mountain Home currently would be part of the 3A Snake River Valley, but Athletic Director John Clark said the school plans to petition to join the Twin Falls-based District Four.
“I think it worked out the way it was constructed to work,” Caldwell Athletic Director Josh Hegstad said. “That’s why that piece was in the first proposal, to give teams the opportunity to petition down that haven’t had success in recent years.”
Tuesday’s meeting marked a departure from dividing schools into classifications solely by enrollment. Instead, struggling schools petitioned the IHSAA to move down based on their competitive history.
Schools with 75 percent of their team sports (football, basketball, soccer, etc.) with a winning percentage at or below .333 the past two years would qualify for a classification change. Schools with 75 percent of their individual sports (wrestling, track, cross country, etc.) finishing in the bottom 50 percent of district tournaments the past two years would also qualify.
But all final decisions are left up to the IHSAA Board of Directors.
“You’re obviously looking statewide, and you’re looking for things and a true competitive equity,” IHSAA Executive Director Ty Jones said. “As you listen to board members speak and gallery members speak, you get more information. It’s simply just not a black-and-white thing where they did meet it or they didn’t.”
Columbia, Nampa, Kuna and Mountain Home all met the competitive requirements for moving down a classification.
Columbia and Nampa both saw 13 of their 14 team sport programs finish with a .333 or lower winning percentage the past two years. Kuna and Mountain Home failed to meet the team standards, but their individual programs finished in the bottom 50 percent at district 15 of 18 times in the past two years.
Caldwell did not meet the competition standards, but it still fielded six of 14 teams at or below .333 when competing against 4A competition, and the IHSAA allowed it to remain at the 4A level.
“The fact that that is 4A competition and not 5A, and that we’re not petitioning to go to 3A, I think that was understood by the board,” Hegstad said.
Kuna’s move down to 4A came as the largest surprise. The Kavemen joined the 5A classification last fall and will spend only two years there. Its football team qualified for the playoffs last season, and its girls basketball and softball teams both reached the state tournament in their first 5A year.
But after watching Nampa and Columbia struggle and fight low turnout at 5A, Kuna Athletic Director Greg Carpenter said going to 4A was the right move.
“For us, there is not enough separation for being out of the 4As,” Carpenter said. “We’re still a part of the SIC conference, so we have relationships with those schools. I don’t think anyone feels we have a competitive advantage next to Bishop Kelly and Middleton.”
The Kuna School District plans to open a new high school in 2020, but it did not factor into the IHSAA’s decision because it will not field athletic teams and all students will still compete for Kuna, Carpenter said.
The 4A SIC will field four teams next school year with 5A enrollment numbers: Nampa (1,502 students), Kuna (1,493.5), Caldwell (1,398) and Columbia (1,323). The traditional maximum for 4A is 1,279.
Columbia Athletic Director Randy Potter said that was a better outcome than asking those four struggling schools to compete with Rocky Mountain (2,377) and Mountain View (2,327.5).
“I think there is a difference between playing Emmett (686) against someone who is 500, 600 kids bigger than you are than it is for us to be playing someone almost 1,500 students bigger than us,” he said.
In Eastern Idaho, Idaho Falls also had its petition down to 4A approved, and Bonneville, Hillcrest and Shelley are all joining the 4A classification.
What the new conferences in the Treasure Valley will look like starting in the 2018-19 school year.
- Mountain View
- Rocky Mountain
- Bishop Kelly
- Mountain Home