COEUR d’ALENE — Genesis Prep Academy stated its case to the Idaho High School Activities Association to continue to allow F1 (international) students to play on its teams during the postseason as well as the regular season.
The IHSAA’s response: Sorry, but no.
By a vote of 11-3, the IHSAA Board of Directors decided Tuesday at a meeting at The Coeur d’Alene Resort that F1 students could play on high school teams during the regular season, but would not be allowed to play at the district and state tournaments.
The ruling is effective starting with the 2018-19 school year.
Genesis Prep, whose programs have become IHSAA sanctioned for only a few years, has had a handful of F1 players on its teams in recent years. During the 2016-17 school year, its second year of being sanctioned in basketball, Genesis Prep won the state title in boys basketball, and placed third at state in girls basketball.
“Genesis is very disappointed in today’s decision,” Genesis Prep principal Chris Finch said. “The IHSAA went on record today to exclude dozens of Idaho students from full participation in extracurricular activities. If the IHSAA was a bus, today we were told we could still ride that bus, but we would have to sit in the back. Right is right, wrong is wrong. Today’s decision was just wrong.”
Genesis Prep fields teams in volleyball, boys and girls basketball, and golf.
F-1 athletes differ from exchange students in that F-1s can play anywhere from 1-4 years at a high school, while exchange students are there for just one year.
Finch said kids from 17 countries have attended Genesis Prep over the last 5-6 years.
IHSAA board member Tim Perrigot admitted the current proposal was not the best solution, but it does allow F-1 athletes to play.
“I don’t think there’s a person in this room that doesn’t think it (using international students) creates an unfair advantage, because it does,” he said.
Conrad Underdahl, athletic director at Genesis Prep, said “it is an unfair advantage” using the international students, and proposed the IHSAA allow Genesis Prep to move up from 1A Division II, the smallest of the state’s six classifications, to 3A, the third-largest classification. Genesis Prep, with an enrollment of roughly 80 students in grades 9-12, would be in a division where the other schools’ enrollment is between 320 and 640 students.
“I think that more than (negates) the advantage of having some international students,” Underdahl said.
Jonny Hillman, a junior guard on the boys basketball team, addressed the board. He said diversity in the student body is one of the benefits to attending the school, which he has since second grade.
“I am going to be honest when I say that there have been times when the diversity on our team has caused us to enter and leave a gym side by side making sure we are together from the beginning to the end,” Hillman said. If anyone has something to say to us, we take it as a team.
In other decisions affecting North Idaho schools:
• Three-man officiating crews at state basketball tournaments — something North Idaho 5A and 4A schools have been pushing for for years (something we’ll get into more later) — may be getting closer to reality. Following lengthy discussion Tuesday, the IHSAA voted to moved the idea to the Action Agenda, meaning it will be discussed further and voted on as a first reading at the next board meeting in December. It could be approved as a final reading as early as the January board meeting, and could go into effect as soon as the 2019 state boys and girls basketball tourneys.
• Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy’s petition to remain in the 3A classification for another two-year cycle, despite having enrollment numbers that would place it in 2A, was approved by the IHSAA. A big reason Charter wants to remain in 3A is the Intermountain League schools (Timberlake, Kellogg, Bonners Ferry and Priest River) are closer than the schools in the 2A Central Idaho League (St. Maries, Grangeville and Orofino).
• Lakeside successfully petitioned to remain in 1A Division II, despite enrollment numbers that would have bumped it up into Division I. Lakeside will continue to compete with Kootenai, Mullan, Clark Fork and Genesis Prep for state berths.
• In other petitions, Skyview will move up to 5A next year, despite proposing to stay in 4A; Columbia, Kuna and Nampa will move back down to 4A after two years in 5A; Caldwell and Idaho Falls will remain in 4A despite enrollment numbers that would have put them in 5A; and Mountain Home will drop from 4A to 3A.