BUTTE — The decision on whether or not to implement high school basketball shot clocks came down to a simple majority vote among the Montana High School Association 159 voting delegates. The proposal calls for schools to begin installing shot clocks at the end of this season and have them operational in time for summer camps to give teams a chance to get used to them.
The scores of hands that reached into the air -- only about two dozen voters were opposed -- issued a silent but resounding "yes."
With that vote, the MHSA approved a proposal at its annual meeting to utilize 35-second shot clocks for boys and girls basketball games at both the varsity and subvarsity levels beginning next season.
"I think it was a long time coming," said Butte High activities director Chuck Merrifield. "We've been pushing for it for a long time. There's been a lot of coaches pushing for it. It was a unanimous vote in AA for a shot clock."
The proposal was issued by Great Falls CMR. It estimates that the cost of purchasing and installing shot clocks will be between $5,000 and $10,000 per school. That pricetag makes some schools wary, especially ones that don't necessarily have the funding or resources of AA programs.
Still, the general consensus was that it was time to modernize high school basketball in the Treasure State, despite the upfront cost.
"The concern for most schools is the expense," said Manhattan activities director Pat Lynch. "But it was coming and the sooner we get involved in it and get going the easier it'll be."
"It'll definitely change the game but you also gotta consider the financial aspects," said Mike Moodry, Jefferson's principal. "It's a significant contribution from our community that we gotta make putting those shot clocks in. Like everything we always learn to adapt and adjust. It's for the better of all the activities we provide."
The members also voted to sanction high school baseball in the state for the first time since the 1970s. Prior to the vote, Montana was one of three states without high school baseball, along with South Dakota and Wyoming.
With the approval of the proposal, the first high school baseball season is set to take place in the spring of 2023.
While the sport has now officially been given the green light, individual school boards will still need to vote on whether or not to pursue fielding a team. Schools also have the option of forming co-ops.
With the high school baseball season set to take place in spring and Legion a summer sport, Butte Central president Don Peoples Jr. believes that the two programs can have a mutually beneficial relationships.
"I think (high school baseball) will complement Legion programs," Peoples said. "It'll encourage more kids to play and participate in baseball."
And, as with shot clocks, some in attendance were excited at the prospect of adding baseball but wary of stretching budgets even thinner.
"It's another monetary impact on our school district," Lynch said. "When we're short of staff, it's hard to justify adding something else that costs a lot of money. But we'll see. It'll be interesting."