By Carey Phillips
High school athletic realignment has been “put on pause” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Commissioner Que Tucker of the N.C. High School Athletic Association.
Tucker made that statement at a news conference April 29, following the NCHSAA Board of Directors meeting.
Realignment is expected to be a major topic at NCHSAA regional meetings in September.
Typically there are about 15 months between the adoption of a four-year realignment plan and its implementation. The -NCHSAA had already condensed that timeline, but the COVID-19 issue has complicated matters. In-person meetings of the Realignment Committee have been limited.
Despite that, Tucker said she still hopes to have the plan finalized in March 2021 with it taking effect some five months later in August.
Tucker said getting sports schedules ready by the time the 2021-22 school year rolls around could be a “mad dash” for athletic directors and coaches.
“It can be done,” she said.
No decision has even been made as to how many classifications there will be for the 2021-25 alignment. The membership voted down going from four to five classes. However, there has been speculation that the 1-A and/or 4-A classes could be subdivided, which is effect would mean five or six classifications.
“I think it’s going to be tough,” Smoky Mountain Athletic Director Adam Phillips said of the compressed timeline. “ADMs in some ways are going to be a little off for some schools.”
Fall average daily memberships are used to put each school in its proper classifications. Those numbers can fluctuate from year to year, but the alignment typically stays the same throughout the four years even if a school’s ADM goes up or down.
Several schools appealed their current alignment at the halfway mark in 2019 because of declining enrollment. A number of those requests were granted, but Tuscola’s appeal was denied.
Phillips said some parents may be hesitant to enroll their children in school this fall and may decide to homeschool for a semester or two. Other families may have moved from an area because of lost jobs but hope to return to their homes when the economy improves.
He said such factors could mean 2020-21 enrollment may not accurately reflect enrollment in a year or two leading to other situations similar to that of Tuscola.
“In some ways I’m glad they are doing it, but in some ways we maybe could extend it a year,” Phillips said.
Forming non-conference schedules, especially for football, could be problematic in such a short period of time. That is especially true for small conference. SM is currently in the Mountain Six Conference, while the Western Mountain Athletic Conference has nine schools.
“Everybody is going to be scrambling,” Phillips said. “If you are able to schedule the MAC teams, it’s going to have to be early in the season. Also some counties require their schools to play each other.”