By BLAKE TOPPMEYER and MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Writers
The Illinois High School Association raised the bar of competition for Quincy Notre Dame on Wednesday afternoon.
The IHSA announced classification changes to its four-class sports, and those changes will bump QND from Class 2A to Class 3A in boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball for the 2012-13 school year. QND volleyball also will compete in Class 3A, although the Lady Raiders were already slated to compete in 3A in 2012 before the classification changes.
"We've done this before where we've been bumped up, but I guess the frustration is not knowing a year in advance because our schedules are done," said Eric Orne, QND's assistant athletic director and girls basketball and softball coach. "And this obviously drastically changes how we would approach things."
Bill Connell, QND's athletic director and head football coach, said he could sense the frustration from his staff in the days leading up to Wednesday's announcement.
"Obviously, from our standpoint, we're disappointed," Connell said. "I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't have some disappointment."
He also has some questions, specifically why the IHSA waited until roughly two months before the fall seasons begin to announce the changes.
"I wish we had been given more of an opportunity to prepare for this," Connell said.
IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman was not in the IHSA offices Wednesday afternoon and unavailable for comment.
However, Hickman addressed the looming changes in a press released issued following Monday's meeting of the IHSA Board of Directors.
"Since we moved to four classes, there have been many individuals who felt that breaking up the four-class sports into 25 percent increments is the best way to classify our schools," Hickman said. "Ultimately, the Board felt like that format made the most sense after moving closer to that threshold a year ago. Naturally, many of the schools who fall into the lower end of the enrollment spectrum in a particular class may believe they belong in a different class, but our member schools also understand that the enrollment cutoffs need to be drawn somewhere.
"What we heard from the coaches and athletic directors from many of the schools in that situation is that they felt better about the process knowing that the classes were split equally."
The move could have the biggest impact on the QND girls basketball team, which won Class 2A state titles in 2011 and '12 and is looking to become the fourth girls basketball team in IHSA history three straight championships.
"We can be competitive in 3A," Orne said of his girls basketball team. "There's no doubt, but there are going to be some games where it's going to be tougher for us. There's no doubt about it. The competition in 3A is very good."
The classification changes come because of the IHSA's continued effort to seek a 25 percent breakdown in each of its four-class sports. This differs from last year's policy, in which 27.78 percent were placed in Class 1A and 2A, and 22.22 percent were placed in Class 3A and 4A, according to the IHSA. Central was the only other area school affected by the changes, as it will go up from Class 1A to 2A in volleyball.
QND's enrollment for 2012-13, after the 1.65 multiplier, is 638.55. The new Class 2A enrollment range for boys and girls basketball is 284-599, and the Class 2A range for baseball and softball is 285-614. For volleyball, it is 247-530.
Class 3A enrollments for boys and girls basketball now range from 600-1,441, baseball and softball go from 615-1,540 and 3A volleyball will run from 531-1,411.
QND just finished the 2011-12 season in which it won state titles in boys soccer, volleyball, girls basketball and girls soccer. Boys and girls soccer will remain 1A next season.
"We are not going to apologize for success," Connell said.
By moving to 3A in boys and girls basketball and baseball and softball, QND will now start postseason play a week later than it would have in 2A. That will create an extra week of the regular season.
From a scheduling standpoint, Orne said that factor is especially frustrating.
"Our schedules are done," he said. "I walked out of the office the other day happy with the fact that our schedules are complete. I guess it is what it is, and we're just going to have to deal with it and make the most of it.
"I think in the back of my mind, I knew this could happen. At first you're kind of bummed out about it, but the second thing is, it's a challenge, and you have to accept it and move on."
Editor's note: A previous version of this story said Quincy Notre Dame was the only area school affected by the changes. However, Central's volleyball team also will see a change, moving from Class 1A to 2A.