01/22/04 — Realignment - Wayne Schools may make shorter trips

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Realignment - Wayne Schools may make shorter trips

By David Williams
Published in Sports on January 22, 2004 2:22 PM

It’s very early in the process, but a lot of questions have come out of the initial phases of the new realignment of the N.C. High School Athletic Associaton.

The process, undertaken every four years, restructures the NCHSAA’s member schools into four equal classifiactions based on school enrollment and places those schools in conferences. The current realignment process will take effect with the 2005-2006 school year.

At present, the NCHSAA has released the enrollment numbers for all the schools in the state and assigned those schools into classificatons.

NCHSAA Associate Athletic Director Rick Strunk said Friday that he and Deputy Executive Driectoer Dick Knox were about to present a plan to the NCHSAA’s executive board for aligning the schools into new conferences.

The plan is not the final answer, but a blueprint to begin discussions for realignment. The executive board can approve the plan, change it or scrap it entirely.

“This plan is set in Jell-O,” Strunk said. “We took a lot of the suggestions we received and tried to incorporate them where it made the most sense. But there is a long way to go with this before it is set.”

Once released from the executive board, the plan will go to the schools for evaluation and review. A meeting is planned for March 16 for the schools to present alternative plans and return them to the NCHSAA’s realignment committee. No one will be permitted to play out of classification.

The plan Strunk and Knox are forwarding aligns schools with an eye toward tight geography within groups.

The most controversial part of the proposal will essentially split the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference as presently constructed; and break apart the three Wilson County high schools that have played together in the same league for many years.

The situation hinges on a proposed eight-team, 3-A/4-A combination league that incorporates 4-A members New Bern and Greenville Rose with 3-A members Havelock and D.H. Conley — which were in the 4-A Big East with New Bern and Rose but were moved down to 3-A — and Eastern Carolina Conference members Washington, West Craven, West Carteret and South Central.

The rest of the current ECC — Eastern Wayne, Southern Wayne, Charles B. Aycock and Kinston — would join with former Big Eight members Wilson Hunt and West Johnston to form a new a six-team league.

“We’d be sitting in a good situation,” said Charles B. Aycock athletics director Charles Davis. “We’d be in the middle of the conference if you look at travel.”

The split league idea is intended to help Rose and New Bern, both of which would have to join leagues that are at least 90-minute trips away from their schools if aligned into a pure 4-A conference. Rose would likely have to play in the Triangle, while New Bern would have to play with the Wilmington-area schools.

The plan is expected to draw fire from Wilson County, which wants to keep its schools together and playing in the same league. Beddingfield is only 17 students short of moving back to 3-A classifiaciton, and a plan has been rumored to reunite the three Wilson County schools and have them join the new league with Eastern Wayne, Southern Wayne and Aycock.

In addition, D.H. Conley and South Central are reportedly interested in playing in the Southern Wayne-Eastern Wayne-C.B. Aycock group and not in the proposed combination league.

Goldsboro, which has moved down, would be placed with current Eastern Plains Conference members North Lenoir, Greene Central and North Pitt. That group would be joined by South Johnston, Wilson Beddingfield and Farmville Central, which is moving up from the Carolina 1-A Conference.

“I’d have no problem with it,” said Goldsboro High School athletics director Randy Jordan. “The group is close, so there is no real long travel. The league seems very competitive and I think we’d do very well in that league.”

Wayne County athletics director Dean Sauls said that with Goldsboro moving down in classifiaction, the other Wayne County schools that are now conference mates with the Cougars would only play them as a non-conference opponent if they chose to. There seems to be no opposition to keeping Goldsboro on the schedule.

“It’s a great rivalry, and a great gate,” said Eastern Wayne athletics director Robert Peele. “We would want to continue that rivalry.”

“We would certainly want to continue playing Goldsboro,” said Charles B. Aycock principal Randy Bledsoe. “The two schools are good, competitive rivals.”

South Lenoir, which has been in the Eastern Plains Conference, would shift to a conference with East Duplin, Clinton, South Lenoir, Richlands, Southwest Onslow, Northside, Swansboro and Croatan. Tarboro, also a current Eastern Plains member, would be playing schools to its north.

The Carolina 1-A Conference, with the loss of Farmville Central, would become a six-team league with Rosewood, Princeton, North Johnston, Ayden-Grifton, Spring Creek and North Duplin. The current cdonfiguration of the Super Six 1-A Conference — Wallace-Rose-Hill, James Kenan, Midway, Lakewood, Union and Hobbton — is unchanged under the crrent proposal.