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Opinion Corner: NDHSAA deserves praise

It's not often the North Dakota High School Activities Association earns praise.

That's not to say it makes bad decisions; it just makes many unpopular ones. Often the most frustrating of the unpopular decisions is when an advisory committee recommends a change in its sport, and the board votes it down almost unanimously.

Much like last year, when it was suggested by the advisory committee that boys basketball be the last tournament of the winter season, flip-flopping with girls basketball after the two did so a couple years ago. It passed the advisory committee 9-6, but the board voted it down 8-1. It makes you question why advisory committees are in place when this happens.

Make no mistake about it, though, the NDHSAA got it right this year, and then some.

Putting the feelings of its member schools at the forefront, the board voted and passed to swap the Class B girls and boys basketball tournaments. They also passed a vote to seed the Class B state baseball, basketball and volleyball tournaments.

Sherman Sylling put it well after the board's 8-1 vote to switch the seasons: "There is nothing bad about it," said Sylling, via Tom Mix of The Forum. "It was something where we need to be reminded that we work for our schools. When the majority of our schools are saying this is what we want and we are able to do it without hurting something else, we should do it."

That should satisfy a growing number of athletic directors and coaches who despised the initial switch, which was designed to give female athletes more time off between volleyball and basketball. That problem may still be out there and to fix that, maybe volleyball and football need to be adjusted.

The boys tournament should be the one to cap the winter season. It's appropriate to move it back to where it was, because many people felt the best should be saved for last. Count me as one of those people. We can only hope it's left alone at this point.

I was even more shocked by the decision to seed state tournaments, something that I figured would never be endorsed by the NDHSAA. If the organization was looking to increase the discussion around its tournaments, it made the right move. This will undoubtedly get people talking months before the tournaments. It's likely to be a big point of discussion going into the season.

People are thankful the seasons are going back to the way it was, but it won't generate the kind of discussion that seeding the tournaments will. The annual media polls will play a bigger part than before, whether that's good or bad remains to be seen. However, teams in the poll could have a realistic idea of where they could end up by what the media poll looks like.

The seeding scenario is fair. It should fix having to deal with a possible state-championship game on Thursday afternoon, which every tournament should strive to avoid.

A quick rundown of how the seeding meeting will go: The eight coaches will rank the other seven teams in order. To avoid a coach purposely trying to deceive the system, the top and bottom score for each team will be removed from the vote counting. The five scores remaining for each team will be tallied and the top four point-getters will be seeded in order. They'll basically be drawing the top four's opponents out of a hat filled with the remaining four teams, similar to how wrestling officials seed the state individual tournament.

Oddly enough, basketball and volleyball may take a backseat to baseball in terms of it being tough to seed a tournament. Class B baseball doesn't have a poll. It's not widely reported on. It doesn't have near the following of basketball. Seeding the top four teams could be decided more on tradition than anything else.

Regardless of the tough tasks that come with the above decisions, the NDHSAA proved it listens to its member schools by passing both of these items. In the past or in the future, opportunities to criticize the NDHSAA will surface. But for now, they deserve a pat on the back.

Sun sportswriter Chris Aarhus can be reached at (701) 952-8462 or by email at caarhus@jamestownsun.com

Chris Aarhus
Aarhus has been a sportswriter for the Jamestown Sun since May of 2012. Prior to that, he was the sports editor at the Minot Daily News and The Daily Republic in Mitchell, S.D. He also worked as a sports writer at The Dickinson Press. He was honored as North Dakota's Sportswriter of the Year for 2014.
(701) 952-8462
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