With classification plans finalized, Grand Forks football programs face decisions

092819 S GFH CUSHMANCLASSIC DillonKuntz01.jpg
Grand Forks Central quarterback Dillon Kuntz (9) runs for yardage during the 2019 Cushman Classic football game against Red River. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

Long-range decision time is ahead for the Grand Forks high school football programs.

On Tuesday, the North Dakota High School Activities Association board of directors gave final approval to a new guideline for football classifications. Now the Grand Forks schools face a Sept. 18 deadline to decide if they choose to move up, down or stay where they are classified.

“Nothing has been decided yet,’’ Central football coach Bill Lorenz said. “We have discussed it. We’re looking at our options, what is best for our program and our student-athletes.’’

The new plan had been approved in January. On Tuesday, a few modifications were made and preliminary division assignments were made to programs.

Under the new guideline, all schools that are Class A in other sports will make up Division 11AA and Division 11A. Any Class B co-op that contains 160 or more male students in grades 7-10 for two or more consecutive years also will be in those divisions. The top half enrollment-wise will be 11AA; the bottom half will be 11A.


Likewise, all schools that are Class B in other sports will make up the Division 11B and 9-man football divisions, with the top half enrollment-wise making up the 11-man division.

Regulations are in place for schools to opt up or down a division, although no 11AA or 11A programs can opt down to Class B in football.

The initial plan has 11 teams in 11AA and 11 in 11A. Those numbers can fluctuate, depending on how many teams opt to change divisions.

There are two basic criteria for a team opting to change its classification. Its adjusted male enrollment must be within 25 percent of the median. And a program cannot have qualified for the state playoffs more than once in the previous four seasons in the higher division.

Central would be the second-smallest 11AA school under the plan and under the guidelines could opt to play in 11A. Red River is an 11A program and could opt to 11AA.

“”We’ve always been in Class AAA with the highest enrollment schools,’’ Lorenz said. “Now we’re looking at what is the best fit for us. No doubt, we’ve struggled the past several years. Football is a numbers game. Have our struggles deterred kids from coming out? I think (11A) would give our kids a chance to be more successful.’’

That will be a big factor in Central’s decision, Lorenz said. “It gets frustrating. Kids want to win. If playing smaller schools as opposed to bigger schools like a Fargo Davies or a West Fargo Sheyenne will help us be more successful, we have to look at that.’’

Red River faces a numbers crunch in the next few years. Only eight seniors are projected to be on the team next fall.


“I think we really need to stay in 11A,’’ Red River coach Vyrn Muir said. “That’s where our program is at right now. Our numbers aren’t high. This gives us a chance to go out, be competitive and win some games.’’

There also is a Fargo factor. Under the plan, Fargo North, Fargo South and Fargo Shanley all are in 11A. But will those programs stay or opt to play 11AA?

“If the Fargo schools decide to play in the big-school division, I’m not sure what we’ll do,’’ Muir said. “If they stay down (in 11A), it could be a very competitive league. We’d want to be in that.’’

Grand Forks athletic director Mark Rerick said his preference is that both Grand Forks schools play in the same division. “But they could still play each other if they’re in different divisions because of the cross-division scheduling allowed in this plan,’’ Rerick said.

“There are still so many parts to look at. It’s too early to say what will happen. There are merits for our schools playing in either division.’’

Muir and Lorenz both expect decisions will be made before football practices begin in August.

What To Read Next
Get Local