BSM’s placement in Metro West conference appealed

This story is the latest in a series revolving around the disbanding North Suburban Conference and BSM’s resulting actions to be places in a conference for 2014-2015.


Thomas Muenzberg

After leaving their previous conferences, these seven schools joined together earlier in 2013 for the 2014-2015 season and formed the Metro West Conference. BSM was added to the conference on September 17, but its placement is now being appealed.

After the departure of multiple schools and individual teams in the last few years, the North Suburban Conference has struggled as competition became increasingly thin. Going into the 2013 season, St. Francis, Chisago Lakes, and North Branch left the conference due to geographical issues, leaving a minuscule mismatch of schools to compete in the NSC.

A number of teams have also left the conference to seek out more rigorous competition in individual sports. Totino-Grace, a rival of Benilde-St. Margaret’s, left the NSC in football after the 2011 season, opting to play up two classes against larger schools such as Eden Prairie and Edina. The BSM hockey team followed suit, leaving the NSC to play an individual schedule that would provide exceptional competition for a team one year removed from being Class AA state champions.

As a result of multiple departures, the conference decided to disband at the end of the 2013-2014 season, leaving the remaining schools to disperse into conferences that would be a better fit in terms of equivalent enrollment, geography, and comparably competitive athletics. BSM applied to the Metro West, Northwest Suburban, and Lake conferences and was rejected by all three. By the way of an appeal, BSM was put into the Metro West Conference by the Minnesota State High School League.

One of the most outspoken voices against BSM’s entrance was St. Louis Park‘s athletic director Andy Ewald, who stated in an interview with the Star Tribune that, “We [the appealing schools] felt strongly about the data we sent to the Minnesota State High School League about why Benilde-St. Margaret’s does not belong with us and why they would be a better fit in the Lake Conference.” Additionally, “the Metro West presented data on the numbers of students who speak English as a second language and those on free and reduced lunch to show the disparities with Benilde-St. Margaret’s,” said Mr. Ewald. The Knight Errant reached out to Mr. Ewald for a comment but he declined to elaborate and defered to the Executive Secretary for the Metro West.

It’s difficult to compare the alleged disparity between BSM and the appealing schools’ percentage of students on free and reduced lunch. BSM is not required to release that information to the Minnesota Department of Education because BSM doesn’t receive state aid. This lack of data makes any comparison difficult to come by.

However the need for free and reduced lunch is based on the median incomes of those whose children attend these schools. Two of the schools already in the Metro West Conference (Chanhassen and Chaska) have families with comparable median incomes to BSM families, but despite this fact, these schools have contended that the percentage of students with English as a second language and students on free/reduced lunch at Benilde-St. Margaret’s is not high enough for them to be deemed a good fit for the conference.

Having free and reduced lunch and English as a second language as qualifications can be important in developing constructive criteria for the Metro West Conference. “Through research they [the MSHSL] have determined that fewer students who fall into these demographic areas compete in co-curricular activities than in the general population,” Mr. Scott Larson Executive Secretary of the MWC said.

Benilde-St. Margaret’s has the highest activities participation rate of any school within the Metro West Conference. “[Benilde-St. Margaret’s] has a 91 percent participation rate in their student body’s participation rate in co-curricular activities. That’s not true in schools which a high percentage of English language learners and students on reduced lunch plans. You won’t find that high level of participation [in other schools]. Some of that is culture, some of that is socio-economics.” Mr. Larson said.

The appeal is to be reviewed by an independent hearing officer appointed by the MSHSL on October 21. Regardless of the hearing officer’s finding, the  MSHSL Board of Directors will make the final decision for admittance at their regularly scheduled meeting on December 5. Both the hearing officer and the Board of Directors will make their determination based on two criteria: the appealing schools will have to prove with empirical data that BSM is not a good fit for the Metro West and the MSHSL will double check BSM’s entrance documents to make certain they were completed correctly. Until then BSM will assume that it is to be a full member of Metro West Conference for the 2014-2015 season.