The N.C. High School Athletic Association realignment plan that was approved Wednesday might have major ramifications on area conferences that will be formed for the 2017-18 school year.
The NCHSAA board of directors approved a modified 20-30-30-20 plan during its meeting Wednesday. The football-playing schools will be classified with 20 percent of the schools in 4A and in 1A and 30 percent each in 2A and 3A.
The schools that don’t field football teams will be added after the others have// been classified.
The plan was one of three proposals the association had sent to member schools for feedback.
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“I was stunned the association went this way,” said Deran Coe, the Wake County Schools athletics director.
The board passed the alignment plan without discussion Wednesday, but it had lengthy discussions on the next alignment during Tuesday’s work sessions. Realigning the schools into classifications and conferences is done every four years to account for enrollment changes and new schools.
The process takes more than a year with a lengthy appeals process. The association is expected to have a preliminary conference draft in December.
The alignment plans the association polled the membership on were: keeping the current 25-25-25-25 plan, modifying the current plan to exclude the schools that don’t play football in the initial classification but then adding them in, or the 20-30-30-20.
Que Tucker, the deputy commissioner of the NCHSAA who will become interim commissioner in June, said the 25-25-25-25 plan received the most support, but the modified 20-30-30-20 also received a great deal of support.
“The board considered all the options and decided this was the best overall plan for the students in the state,” Tucker said. “There was a lot of discussion. There are some schools that very much wanted us to try something different than the four equal divisions.
“This is a big change and people don’t like change. The plan has created a lot of chatter, especially because of some possible conferences, but nobody knows what the conferences are going to look like.”
The plan will help reduce the gap in enrollment between the largest and smallest 4A schools and address the NCHSAA’s growth of 1A schools, especially those that do not play football.
The new plans means about 25 schools that currently are 4A will drop to 3A. The smaller number of 4A schools could require major shifts in area conferences.
Only three schools in the current PAC-6 4A are certain to be 4A schools, according current enrollment figures, which could change. East Chapel Hill, Person and Northern Durham could be 3A schools and Hillside, Jordan and Riverside would be 4A.
Those three 4A schools would need a conference and the most likely conference members are Green Hope and Panther Creek, which are Wake County schools in the Southwest Wake 4A.
“They are right down the street,” said Larry McDonald, the Durham County Schools athletics director.
Harnett Central, Clayton and East Wake, all members of the Greater Neuse River 4A, could be 3A teams, too, leaving Garner, Southeast Raleigh and Knightdale needing schools to form a conference. Johnston County’s Corinth Holder likely will be 4A, but West Johnston and Clayton might drop to 3A.
In information provided to the schools during the survey, the NCHSAA listed four area conferences:
▪ Riverside, Hillside, Jordan, Panther Creek and Green Hope.
▪ Corinth Holders, Knightdale, Enloe, Broughton, Southeast Raleigh and Garner.
▪ Wake Forest, Wakefield, Heritage, Leesville Road, Sanderson and Millbrook.
▪ Athens Drive, Cary, Apex, Holly Springs, Middle Creek and Fuquay-Varina.
But Tucker stressed the actual conferences likely would be different. Davis Whitfield, who is leaving the NCHSAA to join the National Federation of State Associations, said the board did what it thought was best for the entire state, not a particular region.
The reduction in the number of 4A schools to about 75 would require almost every 4A team to advance to the playoffs to fill the 64-team bracket.
“I don’t like that,” said Del Phillips, the Apex High athletics director. “You’ve got teams with two or less wins going into the playoffs and they are probably going to be beaten badly. Why do that to the kids?”
Angie Miller, the Nash-Rocky Mount athletics director and a board member, said it was a difficult decision for the board. She said the majority of the board believed the reduction in travel using the new system was a benefit and the change would be best for the state.
Vines wins award: Bunn’s Tainisha Vines, a versatile athlete and track star, was named the N.C. High School Athletic Association female athlete of the year Thursday at the NCHSAA annual meeting in Chapel Hill. East Lincoln’s Chazz Surratt was the male winner.
Vines, a North Carolina recruit, was a star in volleyball and basketball and won state titles in the long jump and triple jump in 2014.
She led Bunn to the third round of the playoffs in volleyball and was a two-time Northern Carolina 2A Player of the Year in basketball.
Surratt, a Duke recruit, led East Lincoln to a 16-0 football season and to the 2A championship game in basketball.