Last year, the majority of principals in the N.C. High School Athletic Association agreed to modify the bylaw for classifying schools. They decided to move from the previous standard of four classes to a new standard of capping each class at 64 schools.
According to multiple sources, HighSchoolOT has learned that the NCHSAA plans to move to eight classifications by the fall of 2025. This is the minimum number needed due to the constraints of having 64 teams in a class, based on the number of member schools.
However, this does not address numerous other remaining uncertainties, such as how to allocate classes, the format of conferences and playoffs, and potential ripple effects.
Here, I will provide some of my own solutions for managing this significant change.
How to split the classes into eight segments.
There are a total of 436 members in the NCHSAA organization.
If you divide them into seven categories, there is limited flexibility for when new schools are added. There is also no space for schools to request to change their class placement during the alignment period.
Increasing the number of years to eight allows for more flexibility during a four-year realignment period, which is a significant amount of time in the world of high school sports. Another vote on a bylaw will be necessary, but that can be discussed at a later time.
However, how can they be separated into eight categories?
There are numerous methods to accomplish this task.
I came across a numerical value of 58 for the 1A class, which ensured that the remaining seven classes also had an equal number of teams, specifically 54. It is logical for 1A to have a higher number of teams compared to the other classes, as it may face more challenges in having enough programs to hold its own championship.
This method also avoids the complexity of rounding up or down for any other categories.
This is how it appears when utilized for this year’s conferences.
How can the East and West be separated, if possible?
I had originally desired to maintain an East/West division similar to our current setup, but upon calculating the figures for my suggestion – with 54 per class from 8A-2A and 58 in 1A – I came to the realization that it may not be feasible.
If you divided each suggested class into two equal parts based on geography, the outcome would be as follows:
You can obtain three Durham schools, Pinecrest and Richmond in the western area, and a total of 27 schools in both the eastern and western regions in 8A.
In 7A, the west side includes Chapel Hill as part of this division.
For 6A, you must either place half of Alamance county in the western region or assign both of Lee County’s teams to the west.
In 5A, you’re looking at schools from Davidson, Rowan, Guilford, and Rockingham counties in the “east” with Currituck. (I should note that if that’s what you wind up with after trying to find an even split, the playoff brackets might be even more imbalanced once you get 32 qualifying teams.)
In Area 4A, the inclusion of Davidson, Rockingham, Anson, and Randolph counties is necessary to complete the eastern region.
To achieve an equal distribution, Randolph, Caswell, and Alamance must be placed in the western region in 3A.
In district 2A, there would be a charter school located in both the eastern and western parts of Greensboro.
In section 1A, an equitable distribution can be achieved by including schools from Chatham, Alamance, and Orange in the western portion.
Based on my analysis, I anticipate a return to our previous method of determining playoff teams: determining the qualifying teams first, followed by a separation into Eastern and Western divisions.
At present, the area is already split into East and West divisions and teams must meet certain criteria to secure a spot in that group.
3) Tips for Hosting Conferences
When examining the structure of current conferences and their projected groupings for 2025, several notable aspects are evident.
While some regions have an adequate number of teams in specific categories to form complete conferences, they may lack representation in other classes.
Where is Douglas Byrd located within the 910 area code, which contains only four 5A teams? Three of these teams are located in the greater Jacksonville area, while the remaining team is in Fayetteville.
It is evident that it is more challenging to group teams within the same class in the coastal and mountain areas. In the northeastern part of the state, there is one school in the 5A division and one in the 4A division, with the remaining schools being smaller. It appears that a three-way division conference may be implemented.
The answer to this question can’t be answered until the next one, which is…
4) How to do playoffs
First of all, let me clarify my opposition.
I oppose the idea of a school being classified as 5A in one sport and 6A in another. This can be confusing for everyone involved, especially coaches and athletes.
I disagree with the practice of all teams making the playoffs, which is the approach taken by the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association to allow for greater flexibility in scheduling teams and leagues according to their preferences.
Got that? OK.
My preference is for brackets with 32 teams in most sports.
At present, there are 64 playoff teams in each class, comprising approximately 110 teams (which accounts for 58.2% of all teams). Under my proposal, this number would be reduced to 32 out of 54 teams, resulting in a similar percentage of teams making it to the playoffs (59.3%).
Although I would prefer for East and West to be separated in advance, I do not believe it will be feasible.
Can you explain your process for managing automated bids?
Due to the challenges involved in organizing conferences, it may be necessary to have multiple split conferences, especially if there is a focus on reducing midweek travel for all sports. This is a viewpoint shared by many student-athletes and athletic directors, at least until it affects playoff seeding.
As a result, it is not possible to have automated bids for all divisions within a single bracket, as is currently done. This would result in an excessive number of automatic spots for a 16-team bracket in either the East or West. Additionally, removing this feature would also mean that 1-seeds would no longer be guaranteed a top spot in the bracket.
I will continue to grant automatic bids to conference champions, but without any added advantages in the seeding process. Instead, the entire field will be seeded based solely on their RPI.
I calculated my projected results for 8A, with 54 students in each class except for 58 in 1A. Then, I analyzed what it would have been like this year if the method I suggested was followed – only the conference champion would secure a spot (not a seed) and RPI would be used for seeding.
You may find the following text below… I believe it was written effectively.
5) Back to conferences…
It can be challenging to ensure fair playoff opportunities when certain schools are the largest in their division while others in the same class are among the smallest.
On the other hand, RPI serves as a leveling factor. It does not take into account the size of the schools you competed against, but rather their success. Surprisingly, the smallest school, Robbinsville, had the highest RPI among all football teams in the state.
I will not attempt to predict the structure or content of the conferences, but I believe we all agree that they should remain a cherished tradition in our state. I am open to considering the following options:
Most conferences now take place within a one-hour drive from start to finish, but it is likely that this will increase to 90 minutes. Keep in mind that the schools themselves have chosen these locations, so you may have to travel further for some conferences.
The conference may have to reduce its schools from six to five in order to function effectively. It is possible that we may witness the emergence of larger conferences with divisions divided by east and west. For example, Stanford is now part of the ACC.
3) Conferences may be spread across East and West lines. For instance, Richmond may be in the 8A West and Lumberton in the 8A East, but they may have to share a league. (This is a return to the way things were just four years ago.)
Unfortunately, despite efforts to prevent it, certain leagues in the state may be required to have three different classifications due to their location along the northern, southern, eastern, and western borders. This may pose challenges for those involved.
One suggestion is to consider football-only conferences. This would eliminate the need for midweek travel and allow for more focus on team depth. Football has unique circumstances that may require a different approach. Additionally, there are often more confusing results in the RPI rankings for football due to teams only playing each other once, unlike other sports where teams may have multiple games against the same opponent in a 24-game schedule.
There may be other potential changes arising from this.
Having eight classes has a significant impact.
These are some possible outcomes that I could envision.
Occasionally, there are grievances about certain regions within a state being more challenging in individual sports such as wrestling, swimming, tennis, track and field, and cross country. However, it seems that the traditional East, Mideast, Midwest, and West regional format is no longer in use. Currently, most regions consist of approximately 25-30 schools from a small number of conferences. It is now possible to combine these schools into just two regional options: East and West. These regionals will essentially serve as semifinals.
Sanctioning new sports has now become much simpler. According to the bylaws, a championship can be approved if at least half of a classification offers a sport for two consecutive years. This means that for sports such as field hockey, boys volleyball, girls flag football, and bowling, 56 schools in the 4A category were previously required to field the sport. However, under the new rules, only 28 schools in the 8A, 7A, or 6A categories are needed to sanction these sports.
I did not agree with the “ADM only” aspect of this restructuring. If certain schools begin to excel in all classifications, it will be clear why. I do not anticipate much balance with this arrangement, but I can envision a scenario in which “ADM only” includes guidelines for when a school can be promoted.
I believe it won’t be long until it becomes evident that we should be revisiting classifications every two years instead of four. This would also require a minimum of 75 percent membership approval, but I don’t anticipate any difficulties in getting everyone to vote yes.
5) The only sports I can see 1A not needing to be combined with 2A would be volleyball, basketball, and track and field. However, I can also see this being something 1A would like to challenge — why not have their own football champ? Here’s the argument that the NCHSAA will likely hear: if there are 21 schools in 1A that play football (three play 8-man), and 42 in 2A, would this be too many? What if these numbers combine to more than 64? Would 1A be able to keep its own class then?