So far, the NDHSAA has denied the request of two Central Valley football players to compete at Hillsboro. That needs to change.
The North Dakota High School Activities Association board of directors needs to reverse course on the knotty case of Dusty Schildberger and Ethan Proznik.
Haven’t heard of them? Let me introduce you. Dusty and Ethan are football players from Central Valley, a high school located in Buxton, N.D. They will be seniors this fall. And, thanks to a ruling by the NDHSAA, they will not have a team on which to play.
It isn’t quite that simple, of course. In the words of Grand Forks Herald sportswriter Tom Miller, Dusty and Ethan have “become the collateral damage in a complicated mess of declining rural school enrollments, the delicate negotations of cooperative sponsorships and the rules of the North Dakota High School Activities Association.”
All of that is true. There are some adult things going on here, all of which play into the fact that Dusty and Ethan will not have the opportunity to play their senior season of football. For the sake of brevity, we will not go into the long version of events.
The short version is this: Central Valley doesn’t have enough kids to field a 9-man football team, so it will co-op with Hillsboro. But that will not happen until 2013. That means the two seniors from Central Valley – Dusty and Ethan – won’t have a team this fall. So they’ve asked to play for Hillsboro, essentially becoming a “co-op” one year early. The NDHSAA board of directors has already said no, because allowing the two players on Hillsboro would mean the Burros would have to count all 109 students at Central Valley for the purpose of enrollment. That would bump Hillsboro from 9-man to Class 2A 11-man and mess up already-set sections and schedules.
Like we said, it’s complicated. And remember, that’s the short version.
And it is the by-the-rule-book-version. The NDHSAA board says it can’t bend the rules for two players, no matter their situation, because it would open the proverbial can of worms and send everybody down the proverbial slippery slope.
That is the proverbial five-gallon pail of bovine waste matter because the board is taking the proverbial easy way out.
Former Central Valley football coach Randy Vigen and Hillsboro athletic director Terry Baesler sent an appeal to the NDHSAA last week asking the organization to make an exception to the rules that would allow Dusty and Ethan to play their senior years in Burros uniforms. The board will take up the matter at a meeting June 19.
It should be an easy vote.
Let them play.
We know, we know. To bend the rules and allow two kids to play in odd, extraordinary circumstances they had no role in creating would mostly likely lead to a collapse of organized high school sports in North Dakota as we know them, but that’s a chance the NDHSAA should take.
We jest, of course. Giving the Dusty and Ethan the green light to play for Hillsboro would have a minimal effect at best, and only if they contribute in some way to Burros’ victories or defeats.
The board must look at this case individually and make the proper decision to let them play. It should be about finding a way to allow the two players to participate, not using a rule book to deny their opportunity.
Sometimes leadership is about making decisions that aren’t by the book. It should not be difficult for the NDHSAA board to unanimously vote in favor of two teen-agers who did nothing wrong, yet are being punished as if they did.
(Mike McFeely is a talk-show host on KFGO-AM 790 in Fargo and KCJB-AM 910 in Minot. He can be reached at email@example.com)