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I was scrolling through some articles in my hometown newspaper the other day and came across one that caught my eye. It was a surprise to me because it actually had relevance to our area, three hours away from where this paper is published.
The article was talking about the proposed reclassification rules for Nebraska high school football. The way it works now is the NSAA determines a school’s classification by their three-grade (ninth through twelfth grade) enrollment for boys and girls combined.
But the proposed rule, which would go into effect in 2018 at the earliest if approved, would consider only male students. It would also include numerical cutoffs introduced to standardize the ratios in each class between the largest and smallest schools.
What's being proposed is
What does this mean?
The higher enrollment cutoff for playoff eligibility is potentially huge, as it could effect schools like Neligh-Oakdale. The Warriors are ineligible for this year’s playoffs because they had too many students in grades 9-11. The current cutoff is 83 students (again, that's girls and boys combined).
Neligh-Oakdale is far from the only school that is dealing with this issue. As it stands right now, there are 11 schools in D1 that are not eligible for the playoffs because of enrollment.
Many, like Neligh-Oakdale, chose to remain in D1 rather than move up to C2 because their number of players is so low. The Warriors' school enrollment shows they should be playing 11-man football, but they only have 18 on the team.
76 Percent Will Make Playoffs
Think about this. Because so many Class D1 teams can't make the playoffs, that leaves only 42 teams competing for the 32 playoff spots.
Seventy-six percent of teams will be in the playoffs, and that takes away a bit of the competitiveness in the playoffs, in my opinion.
Why Play Down A Class?
The No. 1 factor in this decision should be player safety. Forcing teams to play in 11-man despite not having enough players to do so is just asking to get a kid fatigued and hurt.
No. 2 should be competitiveness. Numbers are going down in many areas of high school sports, and part of that can be attributed to the lack of competitiveness. If a team has a history of going out and get their tails kicked each week, kids often don’t want to be a part of that. The NSAA must do what it can to keep all teams in a fair position to compete.
On that same note, if a team is ineligible for playoffs, potential players may not want to go out as they feel there isn’t much of a reason for them to play that sport if they can’t win anything. If the NSAA is maintaining limits that are unreasonable for a team to reach in order to play competitively, it will subsequently cause players to choose another sport.
Many of Neligh-Oakdale's 18 players are freshman whose bodies were noticeably smaller than their older teammates. The current rules have Neligh-Oakdale banned from the playoffs because of the schools total enrollment, yet they can hardly field a team right now that is big enough to practice offense and defense at the same time, including the smaller freshman who would be competing against the top competition the area presents. That is simply not safe for any of the players involved.
The new NSAA proposals are a step in the right direction to keep players safe and keep teams competitive. My only complaint is that it hasn't happened yet.
Game of the Week
I also have a special announcement for everyone. With this being my first year as the sports editor for the My Local County News team, I'm planning to cover a game of the week.
I'll pick one football and one volleyball (and subsequently basketball and wrestling and so on) game each week out of the Antelope, Boone, Holt and Knox County to attend as our feature of the week. This gives me an opportunity to get out and see some of the top area teams, while at the same time hopefully meeting many of you readers.
Don't worry, we'll still be at other games, too. All of the teams will get lots of coverage. No worries.
Now, I said I wanted this to be fun for everyone. Meeting me may not be as exciting for you guys as it is for me, believe me. So, the fun part for you all is that I want you to help me choose the games each week.
Comment on the story or on Facebook, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or simply stop into the office and tell me what games I should be at each week. But you have to tell me why I should be there. I am a fan of good athletes, and this area is full of them. So, help direct me to the best games.
The game of the week will be announced each week when The Orchard News/Antelope County News is published. I'm looking forward to a great sports season and am excited to get your input.