To say that it’s been a challenging fall for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association would like saying that Hurricane Florence brought a little bit of rain to our state.
Suffice it to say that things have been busier than usual for the prep sports governing body, thanks to a string of weather-related events that have created numerous unexpected logistical headaches — including the rescheduling of state championship football games to this week.
Even some routine matters have become more complicated, as was the case with the recent appeals process for schools looking to reclassify at the midpoint of the NCHSAA’s four-year alignment cycle.
Fifteen schools came before review board asking to move either up or down in classification because of changing enrollment numbers. That’s more than twice the number that filed appeals at the midpoint of the last cycle, in 2014.
It’s an increase NCHSAA commissioner Que Tucker said might be attributed to a new format that was used to determine how many schools are divided into each classification.
“I don’t know that you can necessarily pinpoint one (reason),” Tucker said. “Some of it may have to do with this being the first year of the 20-30-30-20 realignment format.”
The format uses percentages based on enrollment numbers (known as average daily membership, or ADM) to determine which schools are grouped into its four classifications.
The top 20 percent of the NCHSAA’s 417 member schools in ADM go into Class 4A. The next 30 percent are classified as 3A, with the next 30 percent going to 2A and the remaining 20 percent 1A.
Of the 15 schools that filed mid-cycle reclassifications, all were either 2A or 3A members.
“My thought is that you had more schools in each of those classifications,” Tucker said. “Which gave the opportunity for more schools to have seen some decrease in their numbers.”
Nine of the appeals were granted, six were denied. The NCHSAA’s bylaws state that appeals are to be judged on “special hardship considerations” that cause a significant increase or decrease in ADM.
In the case of Montgomery Central and Vance County high schools, the hardship consideration was the consolidation of two schools into one. In the case of McMichael High and Morehead High in Rockingham County, it was the loss of several major employers that forced a large portion of the workforce to move to other areas.
Both McMichael and Morehead were dropped from 3A to 2A, effective for the 2019-20 school year.
“It gets you on a level playing field,” Morehead athletic director Jon Blackwell told RockinghamNow.com. “When you have 700 students in your building and you are fortunate enough to make the playoffs, and you go and play a football team that has anywhere from 1,200 to 1,400 kids, that makes a big difference. So yeah, we are happy with the decision of the high school association and glad that they listened to our presentation and approved it.”
Not everyone is as pleased with the NCHSAA’s decisions.
Southwest Randolph AD Chris Chapman, whose school had its bid for reclassification denied, said he respects the board’s decision but is disappointed his school’s athletes will have to spend the next two years playing at a decided numerical disadvantage.
“We’re at the low end of 3A and we’re going up against schools that have a lot more students to draw from,” Chapman said. “Our numbers have decreased every year and that’s not going to change. It’s about trying to compete against schools with the same number of students.”
According to James Alverson, the NCHSAA’s assistant commissioner for media relations, the schools whose appeals were denied did not meet the board’s criteria that defines “significant increases or decreases in ADM” as greater than 10 percent change in enrollment in one of the years since the most recent reclassification in 2015.
“They’ve set a percentage for this time,” Alverson said. “That’s the first time we’ve had that.”
Here is the rundown of all the appeal decisions:
• Burns High School: Request to be reclassified from 3A to 2A was approved. Effective 2019-20, Burns will compete in the Southwestern 2A Conference.
• Christ the King High School: Request for conference placement in a 1A Conference was approved. Effective 2019-20, the school will compete in the Southern Piedmont 1A and Football Only Conference A.
• McMichael High School: Request to be reclassified from 3A to 2A was approved. Effective 2019-20, McMichael will compete as a 2A member of the Mid-State 3A Conference (creating a split conference).
• Monroe High School: Appeal to move from 3A to the 2A Classification was denied.
• Montgomery Central High School (West & East Montgomery): Approved placing the newly formed Montgomery Central High School in the 3A Classification for the 2019-20 year. Effective 2019-2020, Montgomery Central will compete in the Rocky River 2A Conference, as requested, but the board placed stipulations on their qualification for playoffs in team sports.
• Morehead High School: Request to be reclassified from 3A to 2A was approved. Effective 2019-20, Morehead will compete as a 2A member of the Mid-State 3A Conference (creating a split conference).
• North Forsyth High School: Request to be reclassified from 3A to 2A was approved. Effective 2019-20, North Forsyth will compete in the Western Piedmont Athletic 2A.
• North Henderson High School: Appeal to move from 3A to 2A was denied.
• Parkwood High School: Appeal to move from 3A to 2A was denied.
• Southwestern Randolph High School: Appeal to move from 3A to 2A was denied.
• Tuscola High School: Appeal to move from 3A to 2A was denied.
• Vance County High School: Approved placing Vance County into the 3A Classification following the merger of Northern Vance and Southern Vance last year. Effective 2019-20, Vance County will compete in the Big 8 3A Conference.
• Warren County High School: Request to be reclassified from 2A to 1A was approved. Effective 2019-20, Warren County will compete as a 1A member in the Northern Carolina 1A/2A Conference.
• West Caldwell High School: Request to be reclassified from 3A to 2A was approved. Effective 2019-20, West Caldwell will compete in the Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference.
• Hillside High School: According to Articles of Incorporation Bylaw VI, Board approved Hillside be reclassified from 3A to 4A. Effective 2019-2020 Hillside will compete in the Triangle 6 4A Conference.