Reaction to North Dakota’s new three-class basketball system

Published: Feb. 14, 2023 at 5:55 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - For most North Dakota basketball teams, scheduling is about to change. On February 8, the North Dakota High School Activities Association Board of Directors approved a three-class system for high school basketball teams for the 2023-2024 season for the first time since 1963. The decision was based on enrollment.

“We believe that it’s going to give us a better shake at trying to keep those numbers at a stable level where we can compete against those opponents and keep our programs viable,” said Bradley Foss, Watford City High School athletic director.

Previously, teams were split into two classes, Class A and Class B. Those teams will all be divided into Class A, Class B, and now Class AA, in hopes of equal opportunity for all teams.

“You don’t just have to beat one team, you have to beat three of them just to get to state, and with the new class system, you have more opportunities for kids to go,” said Mike Zier, Beach High School athletic director.

Foss says Watford City is a transient city, meaning students and their families move in and out quite a bit, so while enrollment is higher, athletic participation is not.

“Our programs have really struggled now for a while trying to get, number one, the number of kids out anymore,” said Foss.

Both Foss and Zier remember pushing for a three-class system to benefit teams across North Dakota in 2008, but it did not pass then.

“Things take a long time to change in North Dakota, and it’s not just sports,” said Zier.

While change typically brings resistance, and some schools may feel they benefit while others feel they do not, the NDHSAA made this decision believing it is best for the North Dakota basketball community.

“The biggest thing we wanted to remember is that this is for the kids,” said Foss.

Foss says players care less about what class they are in, and more about being recognized for their achievements.

The first Class AA Tournament ever will be held in Bismarck in 2024.

Previous Coverage: Three-class basketball begins next year in ND