12/02/11 — ECC 3-A stays intact

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ECC 3-A stays intact

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on December 2, 2011 1:48 PM

One drops out.

Another steps in.

North Lenoir will leave the Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference after the 2012-13 sports season, and join a seven-team league that includes its two county rivals.

Smithfield-Selma is expected to fill the vacancy.

"Our conference is basically the same ... will stay intact," said Charles Davis, athletics director at Charles B. Aycock. "This is the first time in realignment that we basically stayed together as a conference because it seemed like every four years in 3-A we were being moved somewhere else.

"We've got a good conference, got good relationships with everybody in this conference now, so I think we're pretty happy where we're at right now."

The computer-generated realignment draft, which was done by SAS of Cary, dropped Cleveland to 2-A status, but the N.C. High School Athletic Association miscalculated enrollment projections. The Rams will stay in the ECC.

Initial reports had Aycock merging with the Wilson and Nash County schools, while Eastern Wayne was projected to join the Coastal Conference. Southern Wayne was expected to leave the ECC for a combination league that included the Wilmington schools.

No such geographical change took place.

"The initial draft parameters included six to eight teams in a conference and they were to be clustered as tightly geographical as possible," said Rick Strunk, associate commissioner of communications at the NCHSAA. "We also instructed them no split conferences in the initial draft. There are a couple of places that we know will have to be addressed because a straight one-classification conference may have lots of travel, and that is where split conferences may come into play."

The Association is holding its semi-annual NCHSAA Board of Directors meeting next week, and will begin to review some feedback and possible alternate solutions submitted by the schools.

Administrative staffs from eastern North Carolina schools can voice their concerns later this winter during a meeting at the Murphy Center on the campus of East Carolina University. The meeting is Jan. 24 and begins at 10 a.m.

After those sessions, the realignment committee will consider proposals from the Association's member schools and send out a second draft Feb. 15. The schools will have until March 1 to respond to that draft and the committee will finalize the conferences on March 15.

Appeals must be filed by April 1 and will be heard in May.

"I was talking with someone today and if they had split us up without Eastern Wayne and Southern Wayne (as conference teams), that would have given us more playoff opportunities and we wouldn't be knocking each other out during conference play," said Davis. "You can look at it either way. It's not set in stone and it will be interesting to see what happens."