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Commentary: An Open Letter to the MHSA

December 8, 2022

Dear Mr. Michelotti & Members of the MHSA Executive Board

My name is Tim Allen and I am the CEO and Managing Editor of the Flint Creek Courier in Granite County. I have had previous occasion to discuss this and other matters with Mr. Michelotti since his promotion to the Executive Director’s position with the MHSA last spring. I write you now as a supporter, resident, and business owner in Granite County in support of continuing the Flint Creek Titan Co-Op for 8-Man Football.

In making your decision I believe there are three key areas that must be considered: The Numbers, The Economies of Schools and Cities, and the Cohesiveness of Communities.

I’m sure at first glance you may not feel like the latter two are items within your purview, but rest assured they will be dramatically affected by your decision should it result in the dissolution of the Flint Creek Titan Co-Op between Drummond and Granite High Schools.

The Numbers

As per the MHSA documentation, you have three criteria in your assessment process: Student Body Size, Roster Size, and Program Success. I submit to you that the latter two should be rendered meritless in your decision making process.

Without question, the size of a student body should be considered, and in actuality should be the ONLY numerical consideration used in granting or dissolving a co-op.

But using metrics of success, both in roster size and how a program has performed on the field, are a slap in the face of programs that have been active and successful in encouraging students to play and to do so at a high level. It gives co-ops no reason to hire quality coaches and to actively inspire their students to play when success will only punish the program.

The success of a program – in roster size or victories – is not an MHSA problem, it’s a school problem.

As in the words of former MHSA Executive Board Member Mike Cutler, “When I was on the board we never brought success or roster size into the discussion because that’s a ‘you’ (school) problem, not a ‘we’ (MHSA) problem.”

Programs that have large rosters and that win should be praised for getting players out, not punished. The philosophy of “winning too much” essentially asks coaches and players to throw games in order to stay together.

The last thing Montana needs is a bunch of people teaching players to game the system.

In the Philosophy portion of the MHSA Application for Cooperative Sponsorship, Section A, Number 1 states:

The Executive Director will attempt to increase the number of students that are participating in activities by making activities available for students that would not be available in their school if joint sponsorship did not occur.

It is very clear from both the current and projected numbers at Granite High School that there will be no football program for them should the Flint Creek Titan Co-Op be dissolved. This point was made several times at a community meeting December 7 by Philipsburg Schools Superintendent Tom Gates, Teacher and Flint Creek Titan Co-Op Board Member Dustin Keltner, and current members of the Flint Creek Titan Coaching Staff. Furthermore, several Philipsburg community members, whose children wanted to play junior high football this year, pointed out that Granite’s numbers were so low that they had to drive their students to Drummond every day so they their children could play the sport they loved.

The Economies of Schools and Cities

We are in a situation where schools, cities, and businesses are literally scraping by for teachers, coaches and funds. Dissolving the Flint Creek Titan Co-Op would only serve to exacerbate this problem.

In the past year both Granite and Drummond high schools had problems finding enough teachers to fill vacant positions. Granite had one position that didn’t get a single application, while Drummond had several that applied and were accepted but who could find no housing. As such, the latter is currently in the process of potentially building their own housing specifically for teachers at the school.

I make those statements to demonstrate what a blessing it is to have one set of coaches that are able to provide a quality football program for the students of Granite County.

And then there is the matter of schools providing up to date uniforms, helmets and pads for the players. These are tens of thousands of dollars that each school would now have to spend in order to get their programs going. These are funds that would be better spent on teachers, facilities and experiences for all students.

Furthermore, the economic impact that the Titans have on Granite County is substantial at both the school and business levels.

As stated previously, if the Flint Creek Titan Co-Op is dissolved, Granite will not have a football program. As one of the two primary sports reporting sources in the county, I can tell you that I have already had several students indicate to me firsthand that they will transfer elsewhere if the Titans are dissolved. This will cripple Philipsburg Schools and may jeopardize their ability to teach any children whatsoever.

Once students are lost, funding falls close behind.

When funding is lost, teachers and staff disappear.

When staff is gone, class sizes increase and educational quality suffers.

In a similar fashion, the local economies will take a hit as consumers, workers, and business owners move from the area to accommodate their children.

The Titans bring a tremendous amount of income to Granite County during football season, with local fans actively traveling between the cities for home games and having the visitors come to town to eat and shop before and after games. This will all be adversely affected if the Flint Creek Co-Op is dissolved.

The Cohesiveness of Communities

There used to be a vicious rivalry in Granite County between the communities and their respective schools. I’d be lying if I said that none of the old-timers still held a grudge against the other for some playoff loss or key game victory. But since its formation in 2014, the Flint Creek Co-Op has brought the residents of Granite County together in a most amazing way and my wife is a prime example.

When we arrived in 2015 we decided to go see a game that was being played at Drummond. Being an alumnus of the Lady Trojan basketball and track teams (she still holds the discus record) she was excited to go see the guys play.

As we approached the bleachers I saw an open spot and indicated that we sit there.

“We can’t sit there,” she said under her breath.

“Why?” I replied.

“They’re from P-burg. I’m not sitting next to them.”

I rolled my eyes and found another place.

But has the seasons have rolled bye, she has become great friends with some of “those Prospectors”, even sharing meals rides to games with them throughout all of the seasons.

The Flint Creek Co-Op has changed minds, hearts and tribal lines. Yes, they still cheer for their blue or maroon during basketball and volleyball. But they do so with an even-handed gamesmanship that comes from mutual respect and friendship. It’s fun, not vicious.

In closing, I know that the intent of the MHSA Executive Director and the Executive Board is to create an enjoyable, fair and meaningful experience for all of our student athletes. I know the intent of your actions is to provide the best and not act in a political or biased manner. And so it is in that spirit that I implore you to approve the Flint Creek Titan Co-Op for another three years, because their existence encourages and promotes those ideals and so much more.


Tim Allen

CEO & Managing Editor

Flint Creek Courier


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