02/12/04 — Realignment helps J.H. Rose

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Realignment helps J.H. Rose

By David Williams
Published in Sports on February 12, 2004 2:01 PM

The next phase in the athletic realignment of North Carolina's high schools was taken Wednesday, when the N.C. High School Athletic Association's Realignment Committee released its first draft proposal for conference realignment.

The proposal adjusts the conference memberships of everyone in the state, realigning them by school size and geographic proximity. The process takes place every five years. The current plan would go into effect with the 2005-2006 school year.

The schools will look at the proposed plan and offer other proposals for the committee's consideration at a meeting March 16 at East Carolina University. Every school in the eastern part of the state will be represented.

The biggest proposed change from the committee is to form a combination 4-A/3-A conference to the east of this area, with New Bern and Greenville Rose as 4-A members; and West Craven, Havelock, Washington, South Central, D.H. Conley and West Carteret as 3-A members.

Rose is isolated from other 4-A schools by nearly 60 miles and would have to play teams in either Raleigh or Wilmington if this proposal is not approved.

Jimmy Tillman, the principal at Fike High School in Wilson and a member of the realignment committee, said that the travel hardships on Rose without the combination league would be staggering.

"There are no 4-A schools near Rose now that the Nash County schools had dropped to 3-A," he said. "Geographically, we thought this would be the best solution."

Tillman said he wanted to encourage the schools to get together before the March 16 meeting and seek solutions that help each other. The final chance to submit suggestions to the committee is March 16, and consensus on a plan among the affected schools is the best way to get that plan moving forward.

Tillman said the committee considers the Rose situation an extreme geographical hardship. In those situations, the usual answer is a combination league.

Currently there are two combination leagues in the state. The Mideastern 3-A/4-A conference in the southeast includes four Wilmington schools (Hoggard, New Hanover, Laney and Ashley) and three 3-A programs (Jacksonville, White Oak and West Brunswick). The Northeastern Coastal 2-A/3-A conference, in the northeast sector, includes Bertie, Hertford County, Manteo, Currituck, John A. Holmes, Northeastern and Pasquotank.

The new proposal entails seven combination conferences, most being 1-A/2-A combos in the western part of the state.

"Bob Dailey from the Pitt County Schools showed us the mileage for Rose if they had to play in Raleigh versus playing in that group," Tillman said. "You're talking about driving four hours to play a tennis match or a soccer game. There would be a lot of early dismissals and getting home at midnight or 1 a.m. on a school night."

The new league is expected to meet with opposition from the 3-A school members. West Carteret athletics director Bruce McFerren said nearly all the current members of the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference -- Eastern Wayne, Southern Wayne, Charles B. Aycock, Kinston, West Craven, West Carteret, South Central and Washington -- met and decided to bring South Central and D.H. Conley into their league. That idea was sent up to the committee.

Goldsboro High was not a party to the discussions since its enrollment has dropped it to 2-A status for the next realignment.

"I'm not for this at all," McFerren said. "I was against this from the beginning. I don't think our proposal was considered seriously. We had a 10-team conference that wants to play together, and we have to change it to benefit Greenville Rose."

"We looked at all the suggestions," said Tillman. "We looked at every letter and suggestion that was sent to us. Now, we'll get input from every school and every conference and get other proposals at the March 16 meetings."

Tillman is also not entirely pleased with the proposal, which calls for changes in his own backyard. The new 3-A proposals would put Fike High and Hunt High in different conferences and move Beddingfield down to a 2-A conference.

"Fike and Hunt are seven miles apart," he said. "Beddingfield's numbers fell in the 2-A ranks, and we were surprised by that -- that had never happened before. Our preference is to play our rivals for a conference championship, and we get that a good bit with the group as it is. That's a good gate for us."

Wayne County's 3-A schools -- Eastern Wayne, Southern Wayne and Charles B. Aycock -- would all still be grouped together in a new conference that includes Kinston, West Johnston and Hunt.

Wayne County Public Schools athletics director Dean Sauls said that membership would be affected by new schools that were not considered in the initial count. But in general, Sauls was pleased with the realignment.

"We enjoy playing Kinston, and if Hunt comes in, we used to play them when I was at Aycock." he said. "I know all of Wayne County will want to ride over to Johnston County to see that new school's campus. We can work well with playing in Johnston County."

Goldsboro High was moved into a conference with North Lenoir, Greene Central, North Pitt, Farmville Central, Beddingfield and South Johnston. Goldsboro High officials have been given assurances that the other Wayne County schools would continue to play the Cougars in non-conference games and maintain their county rivalries.

"It would not surprise me to see South Johnston and Beddingfield try and move back up to 3-A," said Sauls. "South Johnston wants to play West Johnston. Beddingfield might like playing at 2-A and want to stay down."

The old Carolina 1-A Conference will only see one change -- the loss of Farmville Central. The new plan calls for the remaining six schools -- Rosewood, Princeton, North Johnston, North Duplin, Spring Creek and Ayden-Grifton -- to play together in a six-team league.

"There will be no great shedding of tears with Farmville Central out," said Sauls. "Rosewood was especially competitive with them. It's a good conference. I would have liked to have seen seven members."