Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Class B

In 1971, after 58 years of single-class state tournament play, the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL), initiated play in two classes for larger and smaller high schools. The fact is that the smaller schools had complained about the difficulty of competing with larger schools right from the first year of state tournament play in 1913. Over the years, a variety of strategies was attempted to address this problem. 

From 1923 through 1927, a Class B tournament was held--without sanction by the Minnesota State High School League, actually--at Hamline University. The tournament was for "high school departments" in "graded schools." These were not high schools at all, but schools that offered some, limited high school curriculum to older students. The tournament was sometimes referred to as the "graded" tournament or the "department" tournament. So it didn't really address the complaints of the smaller high schools. 

Initially the tournament was open to every "graded" school that wanted to compete. Later, when the fields got too large, regional play-offs were initiated, just like for the larger schools.

Following are the championship game scores for the five Class B tournaments:

1923--East Chain 35 Raymond 26
1924--Stewart 12 Brewster 7
1925--Chisago City 17 Ceylon 11
1926--Brewster 24 Hitterdal 22
1927--Henning 28 Chisago City 18

The highlight was Henning's win in 1927 behind "giant center" Otto Rortvedt, as he was described. Rortvedt went on to play college ball at Augsburg.

In 1928, Hamline's Class B tournament came to an end, and the MSHSL adapted the idea of Class B play to its member schools. Districts were authorized to hold  a Class A and a Class B tournament, with the Class B champion advancing to Class A district play. Smaller schools, in other words, played among themselves to crown a Class B district champion. But there was only one overall champion of each district, one champion of each region, and one state tournament. Only one Class B champion ever advanced even to a district final, that being Columbia Heights, who lost to defending state champion Excelsior.

Still later, in the 1940s, regions won the right to hold a Class B tournament if they liked, but there would still only by one regional champion and one state tournament. Region Eight held a Class B tournament from 1944 through 1946, with first round games matching a Class A team versus one from Class B. Five of twelve first round winners were the smaller schools from Class B.

Region One had one two-class, eight-team tournament in 1948. District Four Class B champion Kenyon was the only Class B first-round winner, and went on to lose to District Four Class A champion Waseca 50-25 in the regional final. 

The MSHSL withdrew its authorization of Class B tournaments shortly thereafter, and smaller schools would renew their agitation for a tournament of their own.

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