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Column: Overhauling Idaho classification system in this manner is much ado about nothing

Classifications will now be Class 6A to Class 1A with several teams going up, down and staying the same. But it doesn't really change anything.

Idaho’s current 20-year-old high school classification system was already a little silly.

The state uses six different classifications to divide its 169 member schools. For comparison, nearby Washington has more than twice as many high schools and also has six unique classifications.

And now Idaho’s superintendents have added another unnecessary wrinkle to it. They voted Tuesday to override the Idaho High School Activities Association board of directors - with 66% in favor of using a new system. The proposal was first submitted back in June.

The changes will go into effect next year. They’ll increase student enrollment numbers for each of the classifications and rename them. It will now go from Class 6A (new classification) to Class 1A (now one classification with no sub-divisions).

The new rules are their solution to the continued influx of students that have caused school numbers to swell and conferences to become a bit unbalanced.

So problem solved right?

Not quite.

While the numbers have been lowered, the highest classification now requires an enrollment of 1,400 students instead of the previous 1,281 - which doesn't address everything.

Based on the new student population standard, Caldwell High School, for instance, will now be in the Class 6A ranks.

The Cougars haven’t won a football game in nearly five years. They’re on a 37-game losing streak. It’s caused them to play a completely independent schedule out of their current 4A Southern Idaho Conference just to have "somewhat competitive" games.

Canyon Ridge and Ridgevue will also be joining them.

The Riverhawks just started turning their football program around. They had the first winning season in seven years in 2022. And outside of the volleyball team, the school’s other sports programs have also struggled to compete in recent years.

The Warhawks still haven’t won more than three games in football during their now eight-year existence.

While they can and likely will petition down at the Sept. 26 IHSAA board meeting, it seems tedious. Especially now that schools can no longer petition their entire athletic programs. They have to do them one by one.

Talk about extra paperwork.

And then what about a school such as Emmett High School? 

The Huskies were already the smallest Class 4A team in the state with a student enrollment of around 746. Despite that, they’ve gone 24-3 and played for a state championship over the past three years. Skyline High School, which has almost double the student population, beat them in the 2020 state final. 

So there’s no way anyone would sign off on them dropping down. But now they are expected to continue to compete with the likes of much larger-enrollment Middleton and Lewiston in the new Class 5A, too?

Since the announcement Tuesday, football coaches have voiced their displeasure on social media.

* Burley coach Cameron Andersen, the head of the coaches association: "It doesn’t matter to them… safety, competition, none of it.., it is about dollars and cents."

* Homedale coach Matt Holtry: "We have to take a serious look at a football only classification. Some of the placements on here are just ridiculous from a football perspective. All this did was allow the top end schools to grow bigger than what they already were.”

They’re not wrong.

This doesn’t change anything.

How does it make any sense to have schools in the same classifications with such a large disparity between them?

It doesn't.