The Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) announced its first consideration of classifications for 2019-2021 when its Board of Trustees met on Nov. 15 in Midvale, moving Grand County High School (GCHS) to 3A in football and keeping it in 3A in all other sports.

The UHSAA based its classifications for the next two seasons on enrollment numbers from each of the 156 member schools taken on Oct. 1 of this year.

There are “bubble schools” at the top and bottom of each class that could potentially move up or down a classification, but GCHS is firmly entrenched in 3A across the board, according to the UHSAA’s press release. However, GCHS athletic director Ron Dolphin said that nothing is final until after UHSAA’s Nov. 28 and Dec. 5 meetings, noting that the school may appeal its classification if more than 50 percent of its students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. He said that himself, GCHS Principal Stephen Hren and Grand County School District Superintendent JT Stroder will get together and discuss what the school’s options are before proceeding with a plan.

“We know that more than 50 percent of our students do in fact qualify for free or reduced lunch,” Dolphin said. “But the problem is, most people refuse to fill out the paperwork.”

Dolphin said that prior to the last reclassification, which moved GCHS from 2A to 3A in all sports besides football, the school appealed based on inter-generational poverty levels.

“I think the board liked what we had to say, and agreed with us, but still they didn’t budge because it didn’t meet the rule,” Dolphin said.

For this proposed realignment, Juab and Richfield are on the high end of the 3A bubble, while Gunnison Valley, UMA Hill Field and APA West Valley are at the bottom bubble. In all sports, besides football, Grand would join American Leadership Academy, Delta, Emery, Judge Memorial, Maeser Prep, Manti, Millard, North Sanpete, North Summit, Providence Hall, Rockwell, San Juan, South Sevier, South Summit, Summit Academy and Wasatch Academy.

In football, the other 3A schools in the preliminary alignment are Juab, Richfield, American Leadership Academy, Delta, Emery, Judge Memorial, Manti, North Sanpete, South Summit and Summit Academy. Delta and South Summit are both moving up along with the Red Devils.

Dolphin said he believes that there should be fewer classifications in football, noting that there are more schools competing in other sports, such as tennis, swimming and soccer, but with fewer classifications than the six used for football.

“I think with six classifications, they want to give everyone a trophy,” Dolphin said. “With 11 schools in a classification, everybody’s in the playoffs, so what’s the point of the season.”

Dolphin also noted that by likely having a six-school division and a five-school division, the smaller division would have a nearly impossible number of non-region games to schedule to make up a full season.

“Make a classification with 16 teams split into two regions,” he said. “There’s seven region games, so you schedule an endowment game and a couple of non-region games to get ready for region.”

Dolphin and GCHS head boys basketball coach and assistant football coach Scott Horton said the move to 3A in football isn’t fair to the Red Devils’ players.

“I personally don’t think they should base the classification solely on attendance; they should go by participation numbers,” Horton said. “There shouldn’t be teams with 35 players playing against teams with 75-100 players.”

Horton said the disparity in roster size presents an injury risk for the Red Devils.

“I feel it’s dangerous for our players,” he said. “When they get tired, they’ve got a better chance of being injured,” he said, noting that in the state 2A football championship game earlier this month, the Red Devils dressed 28 players against about 75 for South Summit, and had several players get hurt in the game.

In the new classification assignments, if finalized, GCHS will no longer be in the same football class as archrival San Juan, or any of its other 2A South opponents Beaver, North Sevier and South Sevier, thus ending or putting on hiatus several traditional rivalries.

Dolphin and Horton said that from a competition standpoint, the Red Devils can remain competitive at the 3A level.

At their Nov. 28 meeting, according to the release, UHSAA will finalize the classifications, then final region assignments will be made on Dec. 5. The new classifications and regions will go into effect for fall 2019.

“I think our kids will be alright; they’ll stand up to the challenge,” Horton said. “We’ll just have to work that much harder.”

GCHS to move up to 3A in football, remain 3A in all other sports, pending finalization

“I feel it’s dangerous for our players. When they get tired, they’ve got a better chance of being injured.”