The Minnesota State High School League Board of Directors took action Jan. 23 to change how regular-season football games are scheduled.
The board voted 19-1 to use a scheduling concept that divides member schools into districts of 16 or more, using geographic proximity and like enrollments as the placement criteria. Those are the same criteria used to determine the current conferences. Each district’s members will establish protocol for scheduling eight regular-season games.
In the 2014 MSHSL Winter Bulletin, Associate Director Kevin Merkle described the concept of district football as “section scheduling on steroids.” District scheduling is based on school size and geographic location; however, schools are not restricted by the enrollments used to determine “classes,” and the number of schools in a district is not limited to six or eight.
A small committee will assign schools to districts. Merkle recommends the schools then be placed into subdistricts or conferences to build their schedules and allow for the retainment of conference or district championships and all-conference or all-district teams.
Each school will help determine the structure within its district, and the groupings of schools within the districts and the schedules developed can be adjusted every two years.
Merkle said most schools will see scheduling changes, but their competition will be similar.
Forest Lake plays football in Class AAAAAA, which was added by the MSHSL three years ago as a way to even the playing field across the state. Just 32 teams are in Class AAAAAA.
“For us, I don’t think there will be that much difference,” Forest Lake head coach Jeff Wilson said. “There could be a couple scenarios. We may end up playing the same group of teams we already have, we could see our conference adjusting a bit based on district lines, especially with Hastings gone now, or we may even end up with some Class AAAAA schools.”
During the January meeting, Merkle presented the board with the results of a survey completed by 227 schools out of the approximate 375 schools that play football in Minnesota.
Eighteen percent of respondents said their school currently has issues with scheduling. Forty-one percent affirmed that their schools experienced challenges when scheduling regular-season games in the past 10 years. Fifty-five percent agreed that resolving the scheduling issues would lessen conference dissatisfaction.