Classification creation gets an overhaul, allowing freedom to better address competitive equity

April 2018 Legislative Council

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

AURORA — CHSAA's Legislative Council took a stab at addressing a growing concern in high school sports in this state — competitive equity — when it changed the philosophy and approach to the way classifications will be created in the future.

Enrollment will continue to be a major factor in the process, but other factors may now be considered when splitting schools into classes for all sports. Included: socio-economics, demographics, safety concerns, competitive success or non-success, geography, enrollment trend, participation rate, and an entry or selection process to school.

The proposal was the brainchild of a 21-person handbook committee with representatives from across the state, which set out to examine and modernize CHSAA's bylaws.

"The changes around CLOC speak to safety, competitive equity, more clarification and parity, as well," said CHSAA commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green. "It's just an elimination of non-relevant procedures that would hamstring the committee's ability to do what's right for kids."

The bylaw, 1500.21, was already partially in place, but the Classification and League Organizing Committee (CLOC) was handcuffed by a line which only allowed them to considered some of the above factors for schools in the upper or lower 10 percent of a given classification. Now, that specific criteria is gone, opening up that bylaw to apply to all programs.

April 2018 Legislative Council

Randy Holmen. (Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

"This started in November when we went through our committee and our bylaws, and they just weren't right," said Randy Holmen, the chair of the CLOC committee, who advocated for the passage of the proposal. "I mentioned at our January meeting that we had to do some things for the good of the organization. I think we've accomplished that in a sense. Nothing's perfect, and this is going to be a document, I think, that's going to be ever-changing.

"I encourage you to look at this with an open mind, and let it evolve, let it go where it takes you," Holmen added. "That's what we need to do, and not become stagnant."

The new philosophy doesn't necessarily mean classifications will see wholesale changes across the board.

"The revisions aren't drastic," said Blanford-Green. "What was voted on today helped clarify the roles of each section that's involved in the classification reorganizing."

This was a process utilized by the football committee in creating classifications in January for the 2018 and 2019 seasons — the sport had been singled out and allowed to utilize the factors in 1500.21.

Even still, Mike Krueger, the chair of the football committee, said his group felt "handcuffed" in what they could do under the existing bylaws. He, too, advocated for the passage of the proposal.

"I'd like to suggest that for over a decade, especially for the past five or six years, we've been talking about the need to address the classification system, especially in terms of competitive," Krueger said.

"We may not have the perfect bylaw in place that will fix it, but I challenge you to say, please don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good," Krueger said. "This is a step in the right direction for kids and for programs. It is a chance for us to balance and do not only what's right, but what's safe for our kids and our programs."

The creation of classifications will now be officially overseen by the assistant commissioner in charge of that sport. It was a practice that had largely already been in place, with assistant commissioners creating recommendations for CLOC to consider.

"The commissioners, they set a lot of this stuff up prior to us even getting the numbers of the CLOC committee," Holmen said. "I think that's something a lot of people didn't even know. It wasn't something that we dreamed up."

With these changes made, the Legislative Council later voted to pass a proposal which morphs CLOC into an appeals committee, where they will hear cases from schools wishing to change their initial classification placement.

This entire process will now begin in December of even numbered years at the beginning of a two-year cycle, with final enrollment numbers due in January of odd numbered years. The CLOC will meet a month later, and classifications will be approved by the Legislative Council in April.