Some high school athletic directors who attended this spring’s N.C. Athletic Directors Association annual meeting were surprised when the N.C. High School Athletic Association board of directors decided to use a new model in its next realignment.
Many athletic directors left the meetings in Wilmington under the impression that the NCHSAA would continue to use the current method of classifying schools during the next four-year alignment that begins in 2017-2018.
The NCHSAA aligns its schools into classifications and conferences every four years. Realignments are done regularly to place new schools and to maintain competitive parity among schools as some grow and others lose enrollment.
The NCHSAA has been dividing its schools, now 403, into four classifications of almost even size.
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Davis Whitfield, the NCHSAA commissioner, gave a power point presentation at the AD meeting in April and reported the results of a survey to member schools about realignment.
The schools were given three choices. Forty-eight percent of the schools had keeping four equal division as their No. 1 choice. About 46 percent of the ADs had a modified 20-30-30-30 plan as their last preference. The third plan was keeping four equal classes, but making modifications for non-football playing schools.
But in its May meeting, the board chose the modified 20-30-30-20 plan. The plan that will remove schools that don’t play football from the initial alignment and divide the remaining schools into classifications with 20 percent of the schools in 4A, 20 percent in 1A, 30 percent in 2A and 30 percent in 3A. The non-football playing schools then will be placed in classifications.
Que Tucker, who will become the NCHSAA commissioner on June 1, talked to Tim Stevens, the N&O’s high school sports editor, about the board’s discussion.
Stevens: Almost half of the schools that answered the association survey listed the 20-30-30-20 modified plan as the least desired plan and almost half said the current 25-25-25-25 plan was the most desired. Why did the board go against the survey results?
Tucker: I think it goes back to the board hearing for several years on a consistent basis from a large number of schools that we needed to make some adjustments in the alignment. The biggest complaint we’ve had in recent years about alignment is that the gaps in enrollment in 4A and 1A were too large.
The concerns have been statewide and have been very consistent.
Some of our smaller 4A schools were trying to compete against other schools that have twice their enrollment. We have schools with 1,500 students playing schools with almost 3,000. In 1A, we have schools with less than 200 playing schools with almost 700.
The board believed something needed to be done at the extremes. The new plan addresses the top and the floor, plus the new plan will reduce travel a great deal in 3A and 2A and not adversely change travel expenses much in 4A and 1A.
Stevens: Is the new plan set? Would the board consider changing back?
Tucker: I think it is set. The more the board discussed the plan, the more it resonated with them.
Stevens: In the Triangle, the new plan is going to break up some conferences and give some schools more travel. On the local level it is hard to see the benefits. Are there benefits?
Tucker: There are if you look at the entire 403 schools in the association. This is the best model for everybody. People often look to see how it affects them without looking at how it affects everyone. I think the board stepped back and looked to see what would help the entire membership.
The ones who don’t like the changes are the most vocal.
Current range in student enrollment in NCHSAA current conferences
(Using 2011 enrollment figures for 2013 alignment)
Myers Park (2,833)
Kannapolis Brown (1,415)
Lee County (1,410)
South Rowan (999)
East Davidson (996)
*Ocracoke had the smallest enrollment (29), but Creswell (97) had the smallest enrollment among schools with football teams.