Xavier explains its decision to drop to Class 3A in football

Cedar Rapids Xavier Principal Tom Keating and Athletics Director Mike Winker wrote a letter to parents and supporters of the school, explaining why it has decided to move down from Class 4A to Class 3A in football, beginning next season.

Here is that letter:


Xavier High School has made the decision to compete in football at our enrollment classification (3A) beginning with the 2014-15 school year. Several factors led to this decision.

For sixteen years Xavier has competed one class above its enrollment classification because we are a member of the Mississippi Valley Conference (MVC), a conference with predominantly 4A schools, except for Xavier and Wahlert Catholic. Since the Iowa High School Athletic Association football playoff system required schools who play a 4A football schedule to play in the 4A playoffs, that is where we competed. It is important to note that even when some of our other sports were "officially" 4A (2008-09 through 2012-13), our enrollment (below 700 students in grades 10-12) was at the Class 3A football level, yet we were competing in 4A.

For the sixteen years Xavier has been a member of the MVC, the only way to play Class 3A football would have been to leave the conference. Since we value our membership with the MVC and the relationships with schools in the MVC, we chose to not consider that option.

Following this year's football season, Wahlert Catholic requested and was granted, permission by the MVC to remain a member of the MVC without playing conference football. Davenport Assumption, a member of the Mississippi Athletic Conference (MAC) requested and was granted similar permission from their conference. As a result, both Wahlert Catholic and Davenport Assumption have made the decision to play at their enrollment classification - Class 3A.

With the decisions of Wahlert Catholic and Davenport Assumption to compete in Class 3A football, should Xavier decide to continue to compete in Class 4A football, we would be the only school in the state to play above our enrollment classification. In fact, only a handful of schools play above their enrollment class in any sport.

Now that we have the opportunity to compete at our enrollment classification, if we continue to compete above that classification in football, we would be asking our football team to do something we don't ask of any other team in our athletic program. (Boy's golf is an exception since we play in the fall season as part of the MVC).

Once the possibility of playing football at our own enrollment classification became an option and once we realized we would be the only Class 3A size school playing Class 4A football, we:
• Attended the joint MVC/MAC meeting discussing the future of Class 4A football in eastern Iowa.
• Held discussion with our coaches and informal conversations with athletes, parents and other constituents
• Reviewed our enrollment projections for the next ten years
• Reviewed our youth football participation numbers
• Reviewed our program success
The results of our discussion and research led to the following:
• Conference football in the MVC will at the very least undergo a change with the exit of Wahlert Catholic from the schedule. It is also quite possible that 4A football in eastern Iowa will move away from conference schedules and toward districts no matter what decision we made.
• Our community opinion is more in favor of competing at our enrollment classification than competing above it.
• Our enrollment will slightly decrease in the next five years.
• Our youth participation numbers have declined 30% in the past two years. This is a combination of lower enrollment numbers in elementary schools and fewer students electing to play football.
• Other than 2006, 2012 and 2013 (exceptional years by anyone's standards):
o Xavier's football record is 73-56.
o Xavier has qualified for the playoffs 7 of 13 years and was defeated in the first round of the playoffs 5 of those 7 years.
o Xavier advanced to the semi-finals once and quarter-finals once in the other two years it qualified for the playoffs.
It is our desire to continue competing against Cedar Rapids metro area schools in non-district games as the schedule allows. We value our relationships and our rivalries with Kennedy, Linn-Mar, Washington, Jefferson and Prairie.

Considering all of the information above, we believe that Xavier High School should, as all other schools in the state do, play football at its enrollment classification. Like many other schools, we will miss the rich tradition and the outstanding competition of the MVC. However, we look forward to the transition as well as the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Sincerely,

Tom Keating Mike Winker
Principal Activities Director
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