12/06/07 — Enrollment numbers don't support recommendation

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Enrollment numbers don't support recommendation

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on December 6, 2007 3:37 PM

The grumblings have started and the number crunching has increased two-fold since the N.C. High School Athletic Association released its realignment draft proposal last week.

Officials affiliated with the Wayne County schools are not pleased with the Association's initial plan. The most-notable change involves Goldsboro High School and whether it should remain in the 2-A classification, or step down to 1-A.

Average daily membership (ADM) numbers released the first month of school indicated Goldsboro has the second-largest enrollment of any 1-A school in the state. But with the rising participation in the school of engineering on campus, the numbers increased the next month.

"With the school of engineering, Goldsboro has been projected to be over 840 students next fall, which would make it a 2-A school," said Dean Sauls, athletics director for Wayne County. "Instead of appealing two years down the road to move back to 2-A, why not forego the process and leave them there?

"I have tried to point out to the folks in Chapel Hill that Goldsboro needs to stay where they are. Goldsboro could be very close to 3-A within the next four years."

Goldsboro joined the Eastern Plains 2-A Conference three years ago when the NCHSAA launched its latest realignment. Sauls said North Johnston could remain in the Carolina 1-A Conference if the Association listens to his proposal. The latest ADMs indicate North Johnston has the state's smallest 2-A enrollment, which pushed it over Goldsboro into the EPC.

However, those aren't the only changes affecting the EPC.

North Lenoir has moved to 3-A, while SouthWest Edgecombe and Wilson Beddingfield are dropping back to 2-A. SouthWest is returning to the EPC, while Beddingfield is making its third stint on the 2-A scene.

Kinston, which has experienced a steady decline in enrollment, was moved from the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference into the East Central 2-A Conference. Athletics director Wells Gulledge administrator Wynn Whittington thought they'd become part of the EPC, but were thrown a curveball by getting placed in the East Central.

Travel time and missed classroom instruction concerned Gulledge, who is also disappointed that Kinston -- once a perennial 4-A power -- has dropped to 2-A status in less than two decades. Gulledge requested to stay in the ECC, but the NCHSAA denied his appeal.

The Association contended that if it allowed one school to play up or down depending upon its ADM, it must grant every school the same option. One goal with the new realignment is to reduce the number of split conferences spread throughout the state.

There are currently 375 member schools in the NCHSAA and at least four to five split conferences in every classification.

"With the Eastern Plains' tradition in football and baseball, it would be interesting to see how Kinston would fare with SouthWest, Beddingfield and the other schools," said Sauls.

The ECC has undergone a significant change as well.

Along with Kinston's departure, Wilson Hunt has been realigned with county foe Wilson Fike, a member of the NEW 6 3-A Conference. The Association added North Lenoir, Triton and South Johnston to the ECC.

Charles B. Aycock athletics director Charles Davis seemed suprised at the Association's recommendation. He favored keeping Hunt and adding Fike, not only because of travel time and future gas price issues, but because of the comradery developed between the programs.

Davis added that breaking up a strong conference and adding schools doesn't necessarily cause angst, but does cause some concern because of the lack of familiarity.

"To move South Johnston from an existing conference and put them in our conference was a surprise," said Davis. "Right now, we really haven't discussed anything as a (new) conference. If South Johnston and Triton are happy, I don't really see anything drastic happening there.

"We can live with it. Wherever they put us, we're going to show up and play. We've already discussed keeping Hunt and Fike on our non-conference schedule."

Sauls agreed he understood the Association's changes in 3-A.

"But I still prefer the Wilson schools because of travel," he added. "Erwin (Triton) and Wheat Swamp (North Lenoir) are a long way apart. We talked with the principals and ADs at both Wilson schools and they were in favor of joining us.

"I'm hoping to get our original proposal back on the table."

School administrators and county/city athletics directors will present their respective plans Jan. 22 at the eastern regional meeting in Greenville. Those proposals will be examined by the Association's realignment committee, and another draft should be issued sometime in the spring.

"We will be good sports and play with Chapel Hill," said Sauls. "Whatever they say, we'll bite our tongue and play that way for four years."

The new realignment goes into effect June 2009.