Tuesday, August 01, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Classifications restructured for next cycle

By RAY BENTON Leader sports editor

The Arkansas High School Activities Association had its annual governing body meeting on Monday in Little Rock, and again members voted to restructure the state’s sports classifications for all sports except football.

While football’s structure remains the same, with six classifications ranging from 2A to 7A, other sports will drop from seven classifications to six, ranging from 1A to 6A, while still others will add classifications.

The major change, after a very close vote for proposition 9, will be to rename the current 7A classification for basketball, baseball, softball, golf and track to 6A. Starting in 2018, what is now 7A in those sports will simply be called 6A, and the conferences, the Central and West, will consist of the same teams.

But in those other sports, the structure changes along with the name. Currently, after the top 16 teams in 7A, the next 16 make up 6A. In 2018, the second largest classification, which will be called 5A, will consists of the next 32 schools. 4A will be the next 48 schools while the number of remaining schools will be divided by three, and placed in 3A through 1A by descending enrollment.

Cross country, volleyball and tennis, which has seen a growing amount of participation in recent years, will move from four classifications to five. Soccer and bowling will go from three classifications to four while swimming and diving will move from two classifications to three.

As far as competition goes, the new structure doesn’t change much for The Leader’s local teams, with the exception of Beebe. Because Beebe was in the upper half of the current 5A, the Badgers will move from a conference exclusively of current 5A teams, to one mixed with current 6A teams.

The conference alignments for the new structure have not been finalized, but it’s almost a certainty that the Badgers’ will begin to compete with several schools of much larger enrollment.

Jacksonville gets no relief from the ongoing injustice perpetrated against it by the AHSAA ruling that it must count 100 percent of the old North Pulaski High enrollment towards its three-year average, even though well over half of NPHS students enrolled at Sylvan Hills.

The result is that Jacksonville must compete for three more years in Class 6A, despite a 5A enrollment, while Sylvan Hills competes in 5A with a 6A enrollment. Jacksonville appealed this ruling during the last cycle change, and this one, but were denied each time.

In other votes, the AHSAA clarified its ejection rules due to last year’s eventually dropped lawsuit brought against it by Pulaski Academy.

Because of the vagueness of the rule, PA played politics after one of its key players was ejected, suing the AHSAA and thereby postponing the automatic one-game suspension until the case could be heard in court.

A representative of the player in question at PA dropped the lawsuit and the player served the suspension the week the Bruins played winless J.A. Fair.

Proposal 2 reduces the number of quarters a player can participate in one day from six to five. It’s to limit teams from risking injury to student-athletes by playing in junior varsity and varsity games.

Proposal 3 allows students at district conversion charter schools to play sports for the public school in its district. This rule does not apply to open enrollment charter schools like Jacksonville Lighthouse.

Proposal 4 enforces a second dead period in which student athletes are not allowed on campus or contact with coaches. For several years there has been a two-week dead period during the summer. The new rule will enforce a three-day dead period over Christmas break.

Proposal 5 gives the association a clear, written definition of ‘amateurism’, and assesses a 365-day suspension for athletes that violate the terms.

Proposal 6 limits the number of competitive activities teams can enter during the summer months to eight. Competitive activities include team camps, jamborees, 7-on-7 tournaments and passing leagues.

Proposal 7 moves up the start of tennis season by two weeks.

Proposal 8 was a different classification restructuring, and the measure failed in favor of Proposal 9.