The South Dakota High School Activities Association added two new members to its board of directors Wednesday, the result of a runoff election decided by a vote of member schools.
To those who have observed this process with a level of fascination typically reserved for the naming of a new pope, there were no surprises but perhaps a few chuckles.
In stark contrast to what is happening on athletic fields throughout the state, the ESD is dominating these board of directors elections, while Sioux Falls continues to get shut out.
The spot reserved for a board of education representative was filled by Aberdeen Central’s Mike Miller, who replaces Yankton board member Chris Specht.
Miller is the second Aberdeen Central representative on the current board, joining principal Jason Uttermark, who was voted in to replace Aberdeen Central athletic director Gene Brownell.
With that much representation, you would think the Golden Eagles would have found out a way to destroy big-class football as we know it and tilt the Class 11AAA seeding process in their favor. Oh, wait, they actually did that.
The new addition for Division II board member (representing schools with enrollments from 193 to 683) is Pierre athletic director Dan Whalen, who replaces Huron superintendent Terry Nebelsick.
That means ESD schools will continue to have three of the eight votes on the activities board, which rules on nearly every important issue facing high school athletics in South Dakota, including state tournament venues and reclassification within sports such as football.
These are the people that gave you the much-ridiculed Class 11AAA, adding a seventh tier of football in a sparsely populated state because Sioux Falls teams were too big and scary.
They might as well start calling meetings to order with ESD fight songs rather than the pledge of allegiance.
Sioux Falls, the largest city and school district in the state, hasn’t been represented on the board of directors since current executive director Wayne Carney served during his time as Washington AD, from 1995-2000.
He actually served for two years with Sioux Falls board member Loila Hunking, meaning the city has two representatives for a brief time nearly 20 years ago.
Since then, they’ve been about as welcome as Steve Kueter walking into a Yankton-style barbeque in Bob Winter’s backyard.
The last time Sioux Falls had a serious shot was in 2012, when Roosevelt principal Mark Hofer was in a runoff against Uttermark and, of course, lost.
Given the anti-Sioux Falls fervor that exists in much of the state, it’s unrealistic to think that schools are going to vote to put a representative from the Evil Empire in a position of power in Pierre. They already look at Carney cross-eyed, and he’s a Hamlin guy at heart.
But recent decisions, and those still to come, have major consequences for the state’s largest city, and the district should have a say. It’s a matter of proportionality, with Sioux Falls accounting for a large percentage of student-athletes (nearly 20 percent of the state’s total) and sparking revenue by supporting and hosting state tournaments.
At the very least, it’s time to take a closer look at how the board is formed and consider changes to the system. There’s a precedent for this, since Carney pushed for and received a special spot for a Native American representative on the board, a role currently filled by White River’s Eldon Marshall.
There are high stakes in high school sports these days, and the board of directors (previously known as the board of control) is a powerful entity. In the interest of making informed, fair decisions moving forward, it’s time to put petty resentments aside and allow Sioux Falls to be a part of the process, whether Bob Winter decides to throw a barbeque or not.