The Michigan High School Athletic Association announced its 2016-17 classifications for girls and boys basketball and volleyball Tuesday, with four area teams moving up or down based on enrollment.
Lansing Eastern and Haslett each move down from Class A to Class B, while Ithaca is moving up from Class C to Class B. Potterville is moving up from Class D to Class C.
Classification doesn’t impact regular season play, but those four schools will now compete in different classes for the playoffs. That means significant and unwelcome change for some, including Ithaca boys basketball coach Jim Thompson.
“We’re probably only gonna be B for one year,” Thompson said. “Do I like it? Absolutely not. It’s a big jump.”
Ithaca’s enrollment numbers for MHSAA purposes – which differ slightly from school aid enrollment numbers because they do not include students who turned 19 before Sept. 1 – grew from 402 in 2015 to 426 in 2016. The enrollment classifications for 2016-17 are as follows:
•Class A – 881 and above
•Class B – 412-880
•Class C – 207-411
•Class D – 206 and below
That means Ithaca is now one of the 10 smallest schools in Class B state-wide.
“That just doesn’t seem right,” Thompson said. “If Ithaca has to play Haslett, you’re talking about a school that has twice the number of students we do. That’s a big discrepancy.”
The Ithaca boys won their first regional title since 1956 earlier this month while the girls reached the state semifinals for the first time in school history.
Haslett is going back down to Class B after just one season in Class A, and Vikings girls basketball coach Bob Currier said the tournament is still largely dependent on where a given team falls in the bracket.
“Honestly, it all depends on the road,” Currier said. “The tourney (now) throws us into a district with some really good teams like (Class B) Williamston, Perry’s been really good the last few years.”
However, Currier said he was ‘very happy’ knowing Haslett will avoid several talented area Class A programs next postseason, citing DeWitt, St. Johns, Waverly and East Lansing – which eliminated Haslett in a district opener last month – as a few examples.
“There’s no such thing as an easy district in our area,” Currier said. “Until you see the (playoff) path and you see what it would be, you really don’t have much of a feel for it.”
Thompson’s biggest issue is with the number of classes, and he believes the MHSAA should follow the approach it takes with football, separating schools into a larger number of divisions for the playoffs.
“I’m not gonna cry over spilled milk, but I wish they would look at it,” Thompson said. “The MHSAA really needs to look at what they’ve done with football and I think it can be a simple fix. … There’s nothing wrong with that. Obviously it worked out well for football and I think they need to take a really good, hard look.”
That would require input from more than a just handful of schools unhappy with their classification in a given year. MHSAA spokesman and former Lansing State Journal prep editor Geoff Kimmerly said the acrimony isn’t there.
“This isn’t something where we’ve had a large group from the basketball community come to us wanting to change the number of classes,” Kimmerly said. “There’s certainly a process for making decisions like that and it starts at the coaches association level. … To my knowledge we haven’t had any kind of push from a majority of our schools to expand the number of championships we have for basketball.”
Contact Dan Kilbridge at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @LSJDanK