03/17/04 — 2A realignment -- Goldsboro, NL happy with new league

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2A realignment -- Goldsboro, NL happy with new league

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 17, 2004 1:59 PM

GREENVILLE -- Eastern North Carolina schools had the opportunity to voice their opinions Tuesday concerning the newest Class 2-A realignment plan drafted by the N.C. High School Athletic Association.

Representatives from some schools strongly voiced their concerns. Others accepted the recommendations with little or no change.

"I'm extremely happy with where we are," Goldsboro High athletics director Randy Jordan said.

Nearly 10 years ago Goldsboro was in the old Mideastern 4-A Conference. A steady decline in enrollment dropped the Cougars to the 3-A ranks in the mid-1990s. The latest realignment, based on this year's daily attendance, has moved Goldsboro to 2-A.

The Cougars will join a seven-team league which includes current Eastern Plains members Greene Central, North Lenoir and North Pitt. Farmville Central, a previous EPC member, is back along with newcomers Wilson Beddingfield and South Johnston.

Tarboro and South Lenoir were realigned into other 2-A leagues, while SouthWest Edgecombe will move back to 3-A.

Beddingfield and South Johnston expressed their opposition to the move.

South Johnston athletics director Mickey Bridgers submitted a proposal to join the Harnett County schools, Union Pines and Gray's Creek -- all 3-A schools. Conference representatives accepted Bridgers' proposal.

Bridgers asked to play up in classification since South Johnston, according to enrollment figures, is "on the bubble." He also based his request on the number of sports that the school fields, as well as the fact that projected enrollments put South Johnston back in 3-A in 2005.

Realignment chair Ronnie Chavis said the 16-member committee would consider his proposal. However, South Johnston's chances of gaining approval are not favorable.

"No school is allowed to play up or down unless you are facing a geographical hardship," NCHSAA executive director Charlie Adams said in the morning's initial meeting.

Beddingfield principal Robert Pope voiced his discontent.

"We have three schools within ten miles of each other split into two classifications and playing in three conferences," he said. "We'll cooperate and do what we can, but we think we have been done wrong."

It will be the first time in two-plus decades that three Wilson County schools have not competed in the same conference.

Farmville Central has experienced a dominating run in the Carolina 1-A Conference. Athletics director Dixon Sauls commented that the female sports have become extremely competitive on the regional and state level, especially in volleyball and basketball.

Football has also flourished and baseball won its first regular-season conference title in 30 years last spring.

"We're really, borderline-wise, still a 1-A school," Sauls said. "It's not a favorable move. We've had a good relationship in our 1-A conference and obviously when you're a larger school in your classification versus being almost the smallest, you're at an unfair disadvantage.

"We competed for many years like that (in 2-A) and we will compete again. You've got to have a good cycle of athletes to do that."

South Lenoir is leaving the EPC and heading back to the East Central Conference. The league now has eight members in Duplin, Lenoir, Onslow and Carteret counties combined.

Tarboro principal Dennis Hart handed the state's bid to co-athletics directors Mike Schott and Jamie Willoughby. The duo showed their coaching staff the new plan and received no opposition. Every coach agreed and felt the program needed to see some new faces.

SouthWest Edgecombe was realigned into a six-team league with Wilson Fike, Southern Nash, Nash Central, Rocky Mount Senior High and Northern Nash.

The current Northeastern Coastal 2-A/3-A league remained the same. Representatives from those schools did not attend the meeting and opted to leave their fate in the committee's hands.

"They have no options and will be satisfied with the committee's decision," Chavis said.

Satisfaction did not sit well with schools from Bladen, Brunswick and Roberson counties. The NCHSAA's initial plan calls for a split 1-A/2-A league, which met heavy resistance.

Some schools are faced with one-way trips that will take longer than two hours to make. Athletes, in some instances, will miss the entire afternoon of classes.

"If economics and education are supposed to factor into this, then something is not right," a Red Springs representative said. "We're looking at 5,200-plus miles of travel for us. From Red Springs to South Brunswick is two hours and 20 minutes one way.

"But I'm seeing realignment as the luck of the draw."

Representatives from nearly all those schools voiced their opinions and Chavis said they had the option to draw a new proposal and submit it to the committee. If the schools couldn't reach a firm agreement, then the committee would more than likely leave the conference as it stands.