MIDVALE — Next fall, all Utah high school sports will compete across six classifications instead of five.
The group responsible for dividing schools into classifications and regions, the Utah High School Activities Association’s Board of Trustees, unanimously approved a tentative alignment of classifications on Thursday afternoon. For the last four years, the state has used two separate classifications — one for football with six divisions and one for all other sports with five divisions.
After studying it for two years, the Board of Trustees voted to make the change for the 2017-18 school year because it has been so successful in football.
The new classification is based on population numbers from Oct. 1. The board looked at ratios — the size difference between the largest school and the smallest school — in each classification and tried to make those numbers as small as possible, while preserving enough schools in each class to field competitive regions.
Copper Hills is the state’s largest school with 2,817 students in 11th and 12th grades, while 1A has the largest ratio because several schools have single-digit populations and the largest school — Wendover — has 116 students. Herriman is the state's largest school using grades 10 through 12 with 2,856 students.
Of interest, the 4A, 5A and 6A alignments are the same for football and all of the other sports because they all participate in the sports.
Bubble schools are eligible to petition to move down a classification, and they have priority consideration. Those schools are determined by “any school with a classification plus or minus 5 percent of the school with the highest enrollment in the classification will be considered tied in enrollment.”
Taylorsville, Roy and Kearns are bubble schools at the bottom of 6A, while Hillcrest, Timpview, Cottonwood and Corner Canyon are bubble schools at the top of 5A. The bubble schools at the bottom of 5A are Desert Hills, Bonneville, Alta, Lehi and Spanish Fork.
At the top of 4A, the bubble schools are Ben Lomond, Uintah, Mountain View, Salem Hills and Ogden.
In football only, the 3A bubble schools at the bottom of 3A are Emery and Summit Academy. At the top of 2A, the bubble school is American Leadership. In 1A, the bubble schools at the top are Kanab and Layton Christian. Layton Christian, a private school, will compete in 1A football as it did this year, but 2A in all other sports under this alignment.
This year, for the first time, an application will be sent to bubble schools asking them to make their desires known. Also for the first time, schools can be considered bubble schools if they have more than 55 percent of their student body on free and reduced lunches. The UHSAA sends those schools an application for consideration, and the school can choose whether or not it wants to be considered to move down one classification.
There is a third way to gain bubble consideration, and that’s success. Also a first-time consideration, schools can fill out an application that asks Board of Trustee members to consider how successful they’ve been in competition when placing them in classes or regions.
All of these factors are meant to make the process more equitable and more responsive to the unique and changing needs of high schools.
What wasn’t discussed much Thursday was how these teams will be divided into regions. There were minimums in each classification discussed because it’s been a historical preference that there are an even number of regions and an even number of teams in each region. That is always hotly debated as teams consider travel costs and traditional rivalries, which may be at odds with enrollment numbers.
During the board's Nov. 29th meeting, the bubble schools and any school petitioning to go up or down will present their cases, including those petitioning on the basis of success and free and reduced lunch numbers.
NEW TRANSFER RULE: In other business, the board also voted to collect information from member schools and governing school boards about support for a new transfer rule being proposed by the Utah State Board of Education. That information will be presented at the Nov. 29 UHSAA board meeting. It’s expected the board will vote on whether or not to support the proposal that the State Board of Education members will vote on for the third time in their Dec. 9 meeting.