BELGRADE – In a move that is going to shake up the sports scene in southwest Montana, Belgrade High School is expected to make the jump to Class AA, as first reported by Butte Sports.
Panthers athletic director Rick Phillips confirmed with MTN Sports that the move is expected to happen in 2019 or 2020. This jump from Class A is going to change the landscape of sports in the region.
In football, Belgrade belongs in the Eastern A, which would still have nine teams if Belgrade does leave. But in basketball, there could be a big shakeup. The Panthers belong to the Central A, which is home to just three other teams: Livingston, Lewistown and Havre. If Belgrade leaves, a decision will need to be made on whether to keep the Central A division or reclassify the three remaining teams.
The move comes as a result of increasing enrollment and it comes at an opportune time. Bozeman High School, the largest Class AA school in the state, is splitting into two Class AA schools in the year 2020. If and when Belgrade follows, the Gallatin Valley will triple the amount of AA schools in a matter of two years.
The Montana High School Association would have to recommend and approve Belgrade’s move to Class AA. Mark Beckman, the MHSA executive director, said those decisions have not yet been made, but a recommendation could come at the board’s April meeting.