Missouri State High School Activities Association

Missouri State High School Activities Association
Abbreviation MSHSAA
Formation 1926
Type Volunteer; NPO
Legal status Association
Purpose Athletic/Educational
Headquarters 1 North Keene St.
Columbia, MO 65205
Region served
580 schools (approximately)
Official language
Executive Director
Dr. Kerwin Urhahn
Affiliations National Federation of State High School Associations
Website mshsaa.org
Remarks (573) 875-4880

The Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) is the governing body for high school activities throughout the state of Missouri. Approximately 580 high schools are members of MSHSAA.

The MSHSAA conducts championship-level activities in 23 activities. At least 50 member high schools must sponsor a sport for an official championship series to be conducted. Sports such as boys volleyball, field hockey, girls lacrosse, boys softball, and water polo are considered "emerging sports" by MSHSAA, but an official postseason series does not exist with less than 50 schools involved in those activities. MSHSAA also administers sideline cheerleading and dance team activities.


The organization was formed in 1926 by a number of schools, both public and private, to oversee championship tournaments. Its first final was in boys' basketball, held that year at Washington University in St. Louis. MSHSAA removed the color barrier in 1952, allowing schools from the MNIAA (Missouri Negro Interscholastic Athletic Association) to join. In the late 1960s, the group unified football tournaments (previously only held locally) to form the Show-Me Bowl that exists today.

School Classification

MSHSAA's member schools are organized into groups based on enrollment, with Class 1 being the smallest. In 11-man football the largest is Class 6, comprising the largest 32 schools based on enrollment. Schools wishing to play 8-man football must have an enrollment smaller than 200 total students. Boys and Girls Basketball has five classifications. Class 5 schools are those with 1,175 students and above; while Class 1 schools are those with 119 students and below.[1] Prior to 2003, the classes were divided into four classes from "A" to "AAAA" (popularly referred to as "1A" to "4A").

However, the number of classes varies by the number of schools that participate in a sport: for example, swimming & diving, along with speech, debate and theater only have one class, while girls softball and girls volleyball use four classes.

Schools in Missouri are able to form their own conferences and play whichever teams they wish in regular season competition. For example, the Ozark Conference, in the southwest portion of the state, has teams from two classes competing against one another.

Schools are assigned into districts for playoff competition only; districts vary depending on sport, size and geographic location. Also unlike other states, there is no "regional" championship designation; during playoff competition schools are generally organized into brackets that are close in geographic proximity.

Wrestling and track districts, for instance, usually have 10 or more teams due to the nature of competition, while football districts have anywhere from four to five. Beginning with the 2012 football season, districts will comprise eight schools. In other sports, district competition is set up like a more traditional tournament bracket at the end of the regular season. The winner of the district tournament advances in the championship series.

Redistricting and regrouping occurs every two years.

Class 5 and Class 4 schools generally come from the state's major metro areas: St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, Joplin, and Columbia/ Jefferson City, although there are exceptions. Class 3, 2 and 1 schools are generally rural, although some small private city schools are grouped here as well.


MSHSAA is headquartered in Columbia. 580 schools, both public and private, are members. Its current Executive Director is Dr. Kerwin Urhahn.

MSHSAA is governed by a 10-member Board of Directors whose members are elected to four-year terms by school representatives in eight geographic regions of the state. Two at-large positions to the Board of Directors were added in 2005 to ensure racial and gender diversity.

Potential changes to MSHSAA's By-Laws, such as eligibility standards and activity regulations, are voted on each April, or in special elections, by the Associations's 760 member schools. A process that includes input from more than 30 standing advisory committees, area meetings conducted throughout the state, and an annual questionnaire to the membership help identify issues to be voted on in the annual ballot process and identify issues for further study or modification. Member schools may also request specific changes to the Association's by-laws and constitution through a petition process that places the item directly on the annual ballot.

The Association's by-laws fall into the following general categories: Bona Fide Student, Citizenship, Academics, Residence Requirements, Transferring Schools, Participation Limits, Entering School, Amateur & Awards Standards, Age Limits, Playing Under a False Name, Graduated Students, Nonschool Competition, College Auditions & Tryouts, All-Star Games, Recruiting of Athletes, Transfer for Athletic Reasons, Sports Camps & Clinics, Sportsmanship, and Foreign Student Eligibility. A three-level appeals process is in place for students not meeting the essential eligibility standards due to unusual, unforeseen or unexpected circumstances.

Each of the state's eight geographic regions not only elects members to the Board of Directors and Appeals Committee, but also nominates representatives to the aforementioned advisory committees and elects three members to serve on each region's investigative committee. The investigative committees were formed to investigate formal complaints filed regarding suspected by-law violations committed by member schools.

The Association publishes a quarterly magazine, MSHSAA Journal, and sponsors one of the nation's largest annual sportsmanship and student leadership events each August. In addition, MSHSAA has a number of recognition programs, including the Distinguished Service Awards program, Officials Recognition program, Scholastic Achievement Awards program, Student Advisory Committee, MSHSAA Leadership School program, Sportsmanship/Integrity/Leadership program, the 5-Star School program and Traditions reunion program.

The MSHSAA trains and registers more than 5,000 sports officials and adjudicators each year to arbitrate various athletic events and evaluative music festivals.


Some schools, notably in Kansas City where Rockhurst High School is powerful in local athletics, have proposed separate playoffs for public and private schools in some sports (mostly soccer). This, however, has met resistance from most of the other parts of the state, especially St. Louis where the gulf between public and private schools is less noticeable than in KC. Instead of separate championships, MSHSAA uses a 1.35 multiplier for school enrollments in determining classes for private schools. In addition, like in most other states, the enrollments of single-sex schools are doubled to better reflect how they would compete against co-ed public schools (hence, the "largest" school in the state according to MSHSAA's method is St. Louis U. High of St. Louis, which is listed as having over 3,000 students when in reality about 1,200 boys attend the school).

The most recent time the issue of a public/private split came up was in 2007, when a petition originated by Belle High School near Jefferson City was put to a vote by a group of public school athletic directors in St. Louis. While some believed that it would have a larger amount of support the athletic directors as well as the state board gave it a vote of no confidence before it went to the schools. When the results were tabulated, the petition was defeated by a landslide (over 200 votes), although the small schools vowed to continue by pushing for other plans such as putting all private schools in one or two districts and having those winners play each other at the earliest possible stage, or limiting the area from which public schools can accept students that can play sports for them.

The State playoff formats have been questioned by teams from across the state. Objections over the four-sectional system have been made by both Kansas City and St. Louis area schools, generally over the disproportionate St. Louis-to-Kansas City sectional allocation (two-to-one) as well as the disproportionate allocation of St. Louis's most competitive teams into one division. MSHSAA had responded to these criticisms by forming a committee to devise a new playoff system in 2006, with the group proposing expanding the football knockout stage from 8 teams to 16 by including the top two finishers in a district instead of only the winner. This took place on an experimental basis in 2008.

MSHAA also bans its member schools from playing any team with a homeschooler on it. Increasingly states are allowing homeschoolers to play on local teams. Even Virginia is approving such a "Tim Tebow rule" (award winning homeschooler/NFL player who played on Florida high school team).[2] But in Missouri they can't even play on their own teams as they have to leave the state to compete due to MSHSAA's rules.

Additional criticisms regarding gender bias also have been levied against MSHSAA. For instance, girls' lacrosse is recognized by MSHSAA, while boys' lacrosse, despite having far more schools sponsor it, has to turn to the Missouri Scholastic Lacrosse Association for a tournament. Similarly, ice hockey is not backed by MSHSAA (it is run primarily by the Mid-States Club Hockey Association), but girls' field hockey is MSHSAA-endorsed. Competitive cheerleading was removed from the list of sponsored sports in 2006 after the dramatic fall and injury of a Southern Illinois University-Carbondale cheerleader, and MSHSAA now recognizes cheerleading as only a "sideline activity."

MSHSAA has also come under criticism for not reaching an agreement with Fox Sports Midwest to televise the 2015 state football championships. MSHSAA claims that Fox wanted money which they could not afford. However, Fox claims that the association went in a "different direction" with its media rights. [3] The 2015 state championship games were only available via a paid streaming service sponsored by the National Federation of State High School Associations, which was criticized on social media.




See also


  1. http://www.mshsaa.org/2010_2012EnrollmentFigures.aspx
  2. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/feb/17/tim-tebow-rules-virginia-senate-oks-home-schoolers/
  3. http://www.newspressnow.com/sports/high_school/area_high_schools/article_84fb846b-d341-5bf0-b2d6-39f0ba3f34aa.html
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