03/17/04 — 3-A realignment -- No consensus on combo leagues

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3-A realignment -- No consensus on combo leagues

By David Williams
Published in Sports on March 17, 2004 1:59 PM

GREENVILLE -- Con-sen-sus (kahn-sen-sus) n. 1. An opinion held by all or most. 2. General agreement, esp. in opinion.

That's how Webster's Dictionary defines the word. At Monday's N.C. High School Athletic Association regional realignment meeting, the concept of consensus was much harder to find than by looking in a dictionary.

The meeting's puropse was to bring all the eastern region high schools together -- at East Carolina Universty's Minges Coliseum -- to come up with alternatives to the NCHSAA's conference alignment plan for the 2005-2009 realignment period.

The initial plan was sent out to schools last month, with urging by the board of directors to have schools come up with alternatives to parts of the plan they did not like. Tuesday's meeting was set up for schools to offer those alternatives.

The consensus was sought most by 3-A facilitator Bob Dailey, the superintendent of Pitt County Schools and a regional representative of the NCHSAA realignment committee.

But in the 3-A ranks, there was more confrontation than consensus.

Chief among the discussions was the creation of a combination 4-A/3-A conference, with 4-A members Greenville Rose and New Bern and 3-A members Havelock, West Craven, Washington, South Central, D.H. Conley and West Carteret.

The 3-A members of the proposed conference objected to the plan, saying that they would have to play 4-A powerhouses Rose and New Bern on a regular basis, causing an disadvantage in conference play.

Representatives from Rose countered that playing in a 4-A conference would force their students to take a bus to Raleigh or to Wilmington to play. Neither move is cost-efficient nor helps with extended team travel. Rose's officials said a combination league would be the best way out of the situation.

New Bern's representative said they were agreeable to moving into a conference with the Wilmington schools, but would not do so if it meant leaving Rose with nowhere to play.

The 3-A schools -- two of which are 4-A and in Rose and New Bern's Big East Conference right now -- want to play only 3-A schools in league play and object to having a majority of schools put to a disadvantage to help Rose and New Bern.

The discussion went on for three hours, with representatives from Eastern Wayne, Southern Wayne and Charles B. Aycock sitting nearby with piqued interest.

The three Wayne County schools are set to move into a new conference with Kinston, Wilson Hunt and West Johnston, but even that is not set. Hunt wants to be moved into a conference with cross-town rival Wilson Fike, and West Johnston will move in only if they cannot play with the Harnett County schools.

A document was circulated with 12 schools agreeing that Hunt and Fike could be in a league together and Wayne County's schools, West Johnston and Kinston would pick up D.H. Conley and South Central.

That suggestion met with resistance from the other 3-A's in the proposed commbination league, as well as Rose and New Bern.

"That's ten times worse than what was there to start with," said Havelock's Wilbur Sasser. "It was two (4-As) and six (3-As). Now it will be two and four."

Other proposals included --

* Making a football-only conference with the 4-A's from Wilmington, Rose and New Bern and the 3-A's from the proposed conference, White Oak, Jacksonville and West Brunswick;

* Splitting the 3-A's into two conferences, putting Rose into one league and New Bern into another.

* Changing the current 3-A teams in the combo league -- which number anomg the smallest 3-A's in the state -- with neighboring 3-As that are larger. Among those schools could be Eastern Wayne, Northern Nash, Charles B. Aycock, and Southern Wayne.

That proposal was met firmly by Aycock principal Randy Bledsoe.

"That ain't gonna fly," Bledsoe said.

The more Dailey sought consenus, the more friction erupted among the members. Finally, he said he saw no proposal that he felt had a consensus of the schools.

A unidentified 3-A representative said "the only consensus you will get is that the 3-A schools don't want to be forecd to play 4-A schools."

Dailey and fellow board member Jerry Smith will report back to the realignment committee at its meeting April 20 that no alternative plan had a consensus of the members. That will likely mean that the NCHSAA's original plan will stand when the final plan is voted on, with the Wilson County schools not being put into the same conference and West Johnston still in the conference with the Wayne County Schools. D.H. Conley and South Central would go to the 3-A/4-A combination league.