November 13, 2013 | Volume 100 / Number 45

Merger Or Co-Op? That Is The Question

The changing face of Montana class C boys and girls sports is becoming more evident daily. Small towns across the state are losing population at an alarming rate, causing schools to lose enrollment, forcing school closures.

In the school year 1999-2000, there were just two school basketball co-ops in the entire state. Scobey/Peerless and Flaxville/Outlook.

Of those four schools, just one is still in operation. It is now a co-op between Scobey and Opheim. Peerless, Flaxville and Outlook are no more.

There are now 104 schools supporting 88 Class C teams in Montana.  One merger involved 3 schools.  38 schools have co-oped making 15 teams across the state.

Schools such as Dutton and Brady merged. Chester merged with Joplin and Inverness. Hays and Lodgepole have merged.

Some of the schools that have co-oped in our area are Froid/Medicine Lake, Westby, Mont., and Grenora, N.D., Richey/Lambert. The boys and girls basketball co-op between Saco and Whitewater resulted in a girls state basketball championship.

That co-op is destined for review however, as Whitewater has just eight girls playing basketball in the lower grades. One in grade 7, three in grade 5 and four in grade 3. Whitewater’s numbers in boys basketball are very similar.

So my guess is that Whitewater will come looking to extend their co-op with Saco. If the Penquins can’t find a home they will have to go to Malta where, most likely, none of their players will make the varsity squads.

There could be a three-way co-op with Whitewater, Saco and Hinsdale but I really don’t see that happening mostly due to parental and coaching conflicts.

The No. 1 problem of any co-op, as defined by the MHSA (Montana High School Association) in paragraph A, states, “... If you already have a program, are students from another school going to replace students from your community and thus deny sons and daughters of your local taxpayers an opportunity to take part in that activity”?

My thought on that is this:

I would rather be a substitute player on a state championship team than a starter on a 3-15 team.

I would rather earn my spot on the team than to have it given to me simply because more bodies are needed to make a full practice session.

Or just because I was expected to play sports because my mom and dad did.

Hinsdale and Saco co-op in volleyball (resulting in a second place at state) and, in past years track and field, resulting in a boys state track and field championship.

I see merging or a co-op between Hinsdale and Saco as a forgone conclusion. Something that has been fought about, discussed and hashed over since I was in high school at Saco 53 years ago.

Here’s a look into the numbers.

Hinsdale has three boys and four girls in grades seven and eight, combined.

Saco has three boys and three girls in grades seven and eight, combined.

Hinsdale has seven boys and seven girls in grades 5 and 6, combined.

Saco has four boys and four girls in in grades 5 and 6, combined.

Hinsdale has two boys and two girls in fourth grade.

Saco has one boy and two girls in fourth grade.

Pretty depressing numbers, I would say.

About half the folks I have talked with on this subject want to make me governor. The other half want to make me ‘farred’ and ‘teathered’. Personally, I think one would be as bad as the other.

More on this subject in Part 2, coming soon to a theater near you.

That’s it for now folks. Thanks for listening.

 

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