To keep pace with South Dakota (obviously kidding), the Minnesota State High School League has added a 7th class of high school football. 6A will be made up of the 32 largest schools and will begin play this fall. (The MSHSL actually approved the addition in April 2011.)
Minnesota has a state population of around 5, 345,000 (July 2011 estimate). That is more than six times the population of South Dakota.
Minnesota has 381 high school football programs... 304 in 11-man and 77 in 9-man.
South Dakota has 145 programs... 63 in 11-man and 82 in 9-man.
My point is not to say who is right or wrong on the number of classes, but to look at the reason behind the way the classes are determined. And in Minnesota, the answer is ratios.
From the MSHSL website on April 4, 2011, posted by John Millea, the Media Specialist for the MSHSL.
"Some clarifications seem to be in order, based on feedback following Thursday's decision by the MSHSL board of directors to add a new class for the largest 32 schools beginning in 2012. Some of the screamers and shouters seem to think this is about awarding more medals and trophies. It is not. First, the size disparity between Class 5A schools was a major factor in the decision. Ideally, the largest football schools in a class should not have an enrollment more than twice the enrollment of the smallest schools. Under the current 5A setup, the disparity is approaching 3 to 1."
Under the new setup, the ratio in Class 6A will be 1.86-to-1. (That is using the numbers from the fall of 2011 with Wayzata the largest school with an enrollment of 3,060 and Apple Valley the smallest at 1,638.)
By comparison, South Dakota's current Class 11AA has a ratio of 3.15-to-1.
The new Class 11AAA starting in 2013 would be 2.16-to-1 (unless O'Gorman plays up). The remaining Class 11AA in 2013 would be 1.32-to-1.
(South Dakota's Class 11A has a ratio of 2.21-to-1. In 11B it is 1.79-to-1. 9AA is 1.29-to-1. 9A is 1.27-to-1. 9B is 1.94-to-1.)
For more to chew on, read this article by Heidi Hanse in the Winona Daily News about two conferences in Southeast Minnesota who are combining and then splitting into three divisions to improve competition by matching up similar sized schools in the Rochester area.
Here is the gist of it...
From the Executive Director of the Hiawatha Valley League Marv Peters: “We wanted to get schools matched up with others their size. Football is a sport that is dictated by size. It will only be for football, no other sports.”
From the Executive Director of the Three Rivers Conference, Larry Tompkins: “We have the same (size) discrepancies that the HVL has,” Tompkins said. “Even though the schools were very satisfied with who they were playing, these discrepancies were recognized. A lot of the schools realized that there was something that should be done.”