New England, Trinity sever Co-op

The New England, Dickinson Trinity sports co-operative is no more, ending a 10-year relationship between the two schools.

New England Public School Superintendent Kelly Koppinger addresses the crowd during a public meeting at the school. (Photo by Cole Benz/The Herald)
New England Public School Superintendent Kelly Koppinger addresses the crowd during a public meeting at the school.
(Photo by Cole Benz/The Herald)

By COLE BENZ | Herald Editor |

As a March 1 deadline approached (paperwork on a new co-op needed to be submitted to the state by March 1), New England was left with few options. But in the end New England found an option that both parties believe will benefit everyone.

With both school boards agreeing to the arrangement, New England will be joining Mott/Regent for the upcoming football season, and beyond.

The entire rearranging began when the New England school administration went to Dickinson for a meeting with the Trinity administration. During the Jan. 20 meeting, Trinity informed New England that they would like to dissolve the co-op effective immediately, even though they had one year left on a three-year agreement. This forced New England to scramble for options, specifically regarding the upcoming football season. The administration from Trinity said the dissolution had to do with the upcoming 2017-2018 realignment, and that the enrollment would put them in Division AA. They prefer to compete in Division A.

New England Superintendent Kelly Koppinger said he was somewhat taken back to hear Trinity wanted to dissolve the partnership, and thought the meeting was in place to discuss any problems or issues they would need to work out for next year.

“It wasn’t a complete surprise, but it was something that kind of caught us off guard a little bit,” Koppinger said.

New England was initially given a few options. The North Dakota Activities Association gave them three co-op choices: Dickinson High School, Mott/Regent, and Heart River.

Hettinger/Scranton was not an option because the enrollment numbers would move the Night Hawks up to 11-Man, something the state would not allow because alignment has already been decided.

The school held a community meeting on Feb. 17, and though a majority of the people attending would like to see New England form their own 9-man football team, Koppinger doesn’t know if the student numbers could sustain a program.

“At this point in time I just don’t think we could support it (9-Man football team),” Koppinger said.

Koppinger also cited the cost as a possible road block to forming their own team. From the estimates he has gathered, Koppinger said it would be roughly $1 million to furnish a team. That cost being divide between field and lighting improvements and the purchase of equipment and uniforms for the players.

Though Koppinger and the administration had been told multiple times by Dickinson Trinity that they wanted to dissolve the co-op, as late as Friday, Feb. 19 Koppinger had been told that they may reconsider the dissolution, and that administrators from Trinity would get back to them. According to Koppinger, the school never received a follow up call.

So during a special board meeting held on Feb. 23, Koppinger informed the board where they were at in the process. After some discussion the board went ahead and voted to dissolve the co-op on their end—technically both schools need to be in agreement to dissolve a co-op.

After approaching Mott/Regent with the idea of joining forces, and explaining their predicament, the school board agreed to enter into the co-op during a special special board meeting of their own on Friday, Feb. 19.

So with both parties agreeing, and pending approval by the state, there will be New England/Mott/Regent football starting in 2016.

Mott/Regent Superintendent Elroy Burkle is happy with the upcoming arrangement.

“I look forward to the opportunity to working with New England,” Burkle said. “I think it is a very good move from the stand point we’re willing to work with them and their kids during this sensitive situation.”

New England will enter into a co-op for the 2017, 2018, and 2019 seasons. Then, New England must petition the state to allow them into an emergency co-op for the 2016 season. The March 1 deadline was given due to the timing of the football committee meeting.

There is however some concern over eligibility. The activities association has a rule that says when entering into a new co-op, the new school’s underclassmen (sophomores and juniors) have to sit out one year before being eligible to play. This, according to Koppinger, is in place to defer schools from jumping from co-op to co-op. Seniors and freshman would be eligible to play.

But Koppinger thinks that New England’s situation is unique, given that the co-op was dissolved so late in the school year.

“There’s a possibility that they could take and rewrite the rule to reflect some hardship situation that would allow our kids to be varsity eligible,” Koppinger said.

The ineligible period would be one year. Koppinger said that he will be attending a meeting in March with the activities association, and he will be given a chance to plead the school’s case for allowing the underclassmen to participate immediately.

Koppinger said he was happy with how everyone participated, given the tight situation the school was put in, and is looking forward to participating with Mott/Regent.

“I think we got a lot accomplished in a short period of time,” Koppinger said. “I’m looking forward to it (the new co-op)…I think we can form a pretty solid relationship that should produce I think some pretty solid results.”

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