HELENA — It was a busy two days at the Montana High School Association executive board meetings this week.
The board gave final approval on key proposals, including moving the 8-Man state football championship to a neutral site, combining the boys and girls Class C state basketball tournaments, and announcing the sites and dates for the 2019-20 state events.
Thirty of 41 8-Man schools voted to move the championship to a neutral site, rotating the title game between Butte and Billings.
Sixty-nine of 74 Class C schools voted to combine the boys and girls state basketball tournaments. That ruling will go into effect with the 2020 tournament, which will be played at Missoula.
The executive board discussed a number of other items, as well:
- The 2018 state swim meet featured more participants than ever before, according to MHSA executive director Mark Beckman. Athletes set 15 records during the two-day meet.
- The MHSA executive board approved St. Regis’ football co-op with Mullan, Idaho. The schools, which are separated by 40 miles and located in different time zones, will compete in Idaho, but St. Regis must follow MHSA rules.
- During the 2019 track and field season, the Western C will qualify its top seven placers at the divisional meet to the state meet. The Northern C and Southern C divisions will qualify their top six, while the Eastern C will qualify its top five.
- While it wasn’t finalized, board members discussed changing the format for the Class AA state soccer tournaments. Currently, Class AA utilizes a double-elimination bracket, playing matches over three days at a neutral site. Class AA administrators have discussed changing the format to match that which Class A uses, a single-elimination playoff with matches played at host sites over the course of three weeks. Dave Cobb, the Class AA representative on the board, said the classification’s administrators will further discuss the format change at their June meetings to submit an official proposal at the MHSA’s September meeting.
- Gary DeGooyer, the Great Falls Public Schools athletic director, was on hand Tuesday to discuss a variety of topics, most notably the state of the all-weather track surface at Memorial Stadium, which is not yet completed. Crews need five or six consecutive days of nice weather to finish the track, and DeGooyer said he’s “95 percent” confident the track will be done by mid-May. Memorial Stadium is scheduled to host the Northern C divisional meet on May 17 and the State AA and State C meets May 25-26.
- The board approved reclassifications for Belgrade, Arlee and Great Falls Central for the 2019-20 school year. Belgrade will move to Class AA from Class A and is expected to compete in the Eastern AA; Arlee will move to Class B from Class C and is tentatively placed in District 6B; and Great Falls Central will move to Class B from Class C and is tentatively placed in District 1B. The conference alignments cannot be finalized until the MHSA’s November meetings. Arlee and Great Falls Central will continue to play 8-Man football.
- With the addition of Belgrade in 2019 and the addition of the second high school in Bozeman in 2020, Class AA figures to break into two football conferences in the coming years. As it currently stands, Class AA features 14 teams with each team playing 10 conference games. When the classification grows to 16 teams, it will likely split into two eight-team conferences in which teams will play seven conference games and two non-conference games. Those potential changes are in preliminary discussions and can’t be finalized without board approval.