Varsity Extra

5 Valley schools want to play in a lower classification. They’ll get a ruling next week.

Five Treasure Valley high schools have filed petitions to play in a lower sports classification starting in the fall of 2020, according to an agenda posted to the website of Idaho’s high school sports governing body.

The board of directors for the Idaho High School Activities Association meets Tuesday in Lewiston to finalize the statewide classifications for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years. As part of its meeting, it will issue final rulings on which classifications schools will play in.

Treasure Valley schools fighting their placement include:

  • Skyview, which wants to return to the 4A classification despite 5A-level enrollment (1,336.5 students). Schools with more than 1,279 students play in Idaho’s largest classification. The IHSAA rejected its last appeal down to 4A in the fall of 2017.
  • Caldwell (1,453) and Nampa (1,475), which want to remain in 4A with 5A-level enrollments for the second straight classification cycle. The IHSAA granted both exemptions to play at the 4A level in the fall of 2017. Those exemptions must be renewed.
  • Emmett, which wants to return to the 3A classification with 4A enrollment numbers (690.5). The maximum for a 3A school is 639.
  • Compass Charter, which is petitioning to stay in 1A Division I with the enrollment of a 2A program. Compass Charter had 217.5 students in the last count, 58.5 above the maximum for 1A Division I.

Other schools across the state fighting their placement include Canyon Ridge (remain 4A with 5A numbers), Idaho Falls (remain 4A with 5A numbers) and Shelley (drop to 3A with 4A numbers).

IHSAA class changes (1).jpg
Graphic by Michael Lycklama

Idaho traditionally placed its high schools in classifications based on student enrollment numbers. The more students, the higher the classification. But the IHSAA entered a new era in the fall of 2017 when it started factoring competitive history into its classifications.

It created a plan to allow schools that struggle year in and year out to move down a level for a chance to compete. But the plan drew a backlash in its first school year when programs with 5A enrollments won five of the 19 4A state titles in 2018-19. Four more second-place trophies went to those former 5A schools.

The IHSAA toughened its petition standards in June, requiring an advisory vote of the state’s superintendents, letters from the new and previous league, and the four-year history of a school’s varsity, junior varsity and freshman teams. Previously, the IHSAA only needed the two-year history of a school’s varsity teams.

But regardless of the win-loss data or superintendent vote, all decisions rest in the hands of the IHSAA’s board of directors. The IHSAA board unanimously allowed Caldwell to stay in 4A in the current classification cycle even though it didn’t meet the competitive history standards.

Treasure Valley schools not fighting their classification changes next fall include Kuna (moving from 4A to 5A), McCall-Donnelly (2A to 3A) and Ambrose (1A Division I to 2A).

If the IHSAA rejected the appeals from Nampa, Caldwell and Skyview, it would create a 13-team 5A Southern Idaho Conference. The league would then swell to a record 14 teams when West Ada’s new high school, Owyhee, opens in the fall of 2021.

That would create an imbalance locally with 13 teams in the 5A SIC and six in the 4A SIC in the fall of 2020. But the raw enrollment numbers even out statewide with 23 teams in the 5A and 4A classifications.

Related stories from Idaho Statesman

Michael Lycklama has covered Idaho high school sports since 2007. He’s won national awards for his work uncovering the stories of the Treasure Valley’s best athletes and investigating behind-the-scenes trends.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.
Support my work with a digital subscription