MHSAA class change: not what it used to be

IRON RIVER—Even though it doesn’t mean as much as it used to, the Michigan High School Athletic Association made its annual announcement on classification changes recently.
    For many years, Michigan has ranked schools by enrollment from Class A to D. As enrollments fluctuate, each year teams move from one class to another.
    It happened again this year, with several U.P. schools on the move. Houghton and Negaunee are both moving from Class C to Class B starting next fall. Bark River-Harris and Munising are both moving from Class D to Class C.
    For Houghton and Munising, this reverses the actions from the spring of 2017, when both were moved down in class for the 2017-18 school year.
    No U.P. schools are moving to a smaller enrollment class for 2018-19. The counts are based on the second semester count date on Feb. 14. Students ineligible for athletic competition, such as those who turn 19 before Sept. 1, are not included in the count.
    Each year, the MHSAA breaks its member schools into four nearly equal classes. In 2018-19, Class A is for schools with enrollment of 885 and above; Class B is 884 to 398; Class C is 397 to 194; and Class D is 193 and below.
    The “break” between Classes A and B increased by four from 2017-18, but the B-C break decreased by eight, and the C-D break is nine less than before.
    These classifications had been used for many years to place teams in postseason tournaments. But in recent years, the MHSAA has shifted to placing schools in equal or nearly equal divisions.
    That will continue in 2018-19, with both volleyball and boys and girls basketball switching to a division setup.
    The thinking is that the Class D enrollment cap has shrunk over the years. In 2007-08, it was 248. In 2017-18, it was 203. In 2018-19, it will be 193. Some smaller MHSAA member schools do not have basketball or, especially, volleyball.
    By holding strictly to the four-class system, the number of schools in each division goes out of balance. A spring 2014 MHSAA report said the number of teams in boys basketball that year was 188, 182, 182 and 172 in Classes A, B, C and D, respectively. A division setup would have each at 181 schools.
    In girls basketball, the numbers were 186, 181, 182 and 167, with 179 per division. In volleyball, the numbers were 186, 178, 180 and 160, with 176 per division.
    That was the MHSAA Representative Council’s thinking when it decided in May 2017 to approve the switch to a division setup for basketball and volleyball, effective with the 2018-19 school year.
    It means the smallest Class C schools by enrollment will be assigned to Division 4 for the basketball and volleyball tournaments. The same with Class B schools getting placed in Division 3.
    For instance, Munising (enrollment 201), which has just been moved to Class C, will still be in the Division 4 basketball tournament next winter, along with Hancock and Newberry (both 194). And Negaunee (404), newly moved to Class B, will be part of Division 3. Houghton (421) stays in Division 2.
    As things stand now, the traditional classes of A, B, C and D will only be used for internal MHSAA elections and for football playoff purposes:\

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