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St. Thomas ousted from Classic Suburban Conference ... or are they?
Activities directors point to 'changing demographics' as one reason for move
The Classic Suburban Conference activities directors voted 6-2 with one abstention to eliminate St. Thomas Academy from the conference last week.
The ADs from St. Thomas and Hill-Murray, the Classic Suburban's two private high schools, voted against removing St. Thomas from the conference.
Richfield's AD abstained since his school is leaving the Classic Suburban Conference in 2014-15 to join the Metro West Conference.
St. Thomas would not play CSC schools starting in school year 2014-15 if the move holds up.
The initial vote by the ADs took place during a meeting Monday, April 15. The following day it was discovered that the Classic Suburban Conference bylaws don't allow the conference to eliminate a member school. Before St. Thomas can be voted out of the Classic Suburban, the bylaws will have to be changed.
The conference ADs have a meeting scheduled April 22, with a bylaws change as a possible agenda item.
In an interview last week Pete Veldman of South St. Paul, longtime executive secretary of the conference ADs, cited "changing demographics" as the major reason for eliminating St. Thomas from the conference.
St. Thomas is a Catholic, all-boys military prep school located in Mendota Heights. Hill-Murray also is a private Catholic school, but the others in the conference -- Henry Sibley, North, Mahtomedi, Richfield, Simley, South St. Paul and Tartan - are public schools.
"The population of our (public) schools has changed tremendously in the past few years. No matter what happens to us, their (St. Thomas') population is not going to change.
"They will continue to draw from the same student pool as they have all along. Their population won't change, where the other schools in our conference have no choice. It isn't a matter of being right or wrong. It is what it is," Veldman said.
Cadets consider options
St. Thomas activities director Jack Zahr said, "We certainly are the most affected by the decision. It doesn't make much sense to us.
"They thought we were not a good fit because of our different types of populations. From our perspective we are a perfect fit for the Classic Suburban Conference. We are, when you double our size because we are an all-boys school, fifth in size in the conference.
"But the vote was not in our favor. You will have to talk to the other ADs who voted. I don't want to put words in their mouths, but it seemed they (thought) we were no longer a good fit."
If on April 22 the Classic Suburban ADs reaffirm their decision to eliminate St. Thomas from the conference, Zahr indicated the school would apply for admittance into a conference through a process set up by the Minnesota State High School League.
"As yet we are still investigating our possibilities. We are still in the (Classic Suburban) conference next year, so we still have time. As yet no decision has been made," Zahr stated.
Public schools 'struggling'
Activities director Will Short of Simley High School in Inver Grove Heights voiced some thoughts on what Zahr called a "perfect fit."
"That simply is not true," Short stated during an interview. "In 2000-2001, the Minnesota State High School League assigned St. Thomas to our conference because they thought they were a good fit.
"Since that time the socio-economics of the public schools has changed drastically. There is not just one reason, there are several reasons why St. Thomas is no longer a good fit.
"For them to say they are, is simply not true. They're right across the street from the South Suburban Conference. Right now it would make sense for them to be in that conference."
The South Suburban Conference includes large high schools such as Apple Valley, Bloomington Jefferson and Kennedy, Burnsville, Eastview, and Lakeville North and South.
Short continued, "Public schools right now, throughout the whole state, are struggling. We're not talking about today, we're talking about the next 10 years and what is best for our kids. "Actually, if they (St. Thomas administrators) were being honest, they would agree with us.
"When they were assigned to the Classic Suburban Conference in 2000, the Minnesota State High School League thought they were a good fit; that is no longer true.
"They seem to want to play the victims in all of this. We (the Classic Suburban public schools) simply no longer look anything like them. There are no hard feelings involved," Short said.
"I believe, and five other ADs feel the same, that in removing them from our conference we have done them a favor."
Short continued, "I don't blame them for being what they are. They are doing the right thing. They have invested millions in their facilities. They have made it more attractive to athletes to be a part of them.
"Public schools just can't keep up. The Classic Suburban Conference schools are not anything like a 'good fit' any longer. And I know the MSHSL will see that this time around."
Cadets dominate some sports
In conference athletics -- particularly football and hockey -- St. Thomas has been highly successful, which has led some observers to wonder if that was a major factor in the efforts to rid the Classic Suburban of the Cadets.
The St. Thomas hockey team -- playing in Class A -- has won five state championships in the last eight years. In football, though they have not won a title, the Cadets have qualified for the state tournament eight times since 2000, the year the school was assigned to the Classic Suburban Conference.
The Cadets have also found success in Alpine skiing (they are the only school in the conference with an Alpine skiing program), swimming and diving and Class AAA basketball.
If the Classic Suburban ADs are able to eliminate St. Thomas from the conference, the school has the option of applying to two conferences -- it could reapply to the Classic Suburban -- seeking acceptance.
If St. Thomas is not accepted, the Minnesota State High School League would then assign it to a conference.
Prior to 1978, the Minnesota State High School League conference members were only public schools. The private schools were in separate conferences and held their own state tournament competitions.
But that changed when the Minnesota Legislature approved legislation folding private schools into the League's conference system.