E.A. Sports Today

Just a thought on …

Realignment — Schools preparing for next round, insiders don’t expect any major changes, but there always will be movement

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

The Alabama High School Athletic Association’s biennial exercise of realigning the classifications is once again upon us and it’s being met with the usual amount of anticipation, angst and uncertainty.

Everybody wants to know which region/area their school is going to be assigned for the next two years and who their regular opponents are going to be. It’s such a closely watched issue, the AHSAA’s website received more than 600,000 hits the afternoon the results were announced in 2014.

Of course, those results were highlighted by the newly created seven-classification structure, which will be recommended to the Central Board again this year.

Although the plan for the next two years won’t be official until Wednesday’s board meeting (following a long work session Tuesday), many schools know – or at least believe they have a really good idea – of where they are going to fall athletically for 2016-17.

There isn’t expected to be much change in the classification structure — there won’t be more than 36 teams in 7A — but there will be movement as schools have consolidated and lost/gained enrollment. The most significant impact in Calhoun County is Anniston’s expected drop back to 4A, although there is talk Wellborn could jump to 4A as well.

No other county schools are expected to move, but that doesn’t mean everybody’s staying put. Other schools in the area believed to be on the move are Cleburne County and Munford from 4A to 5A, Cedar Bluff from 1A to 2A and Randolph County from 2A to 3A. Westbrook Christian could remain one of the smallest 3As or become one of the largest 2As; a lot depends on the private school multiplier.

“The only schools that are not sure what class they’ll be in most likely would be the schools that are on the borderline in this current classification,” one AHSAA insider said.

And a lot of where they fall depends not only on enrollment but the geographic lines determined by a GPS-based program developed by a former NASA employee.

While schools might not change classifications this go-round, there could be some interesting region/area configurations in the shuffle that could make things really fun.

Imagine Lincoln, Munford, Talladega, Cleburne County, Alexandria all in the same 5A football region (with Mortimer Jordan and Hayden moving closer to Birmingham). It’ll create some dynamic matchups in some already intense rivalries – now those games will have even more meaning.

Since we’re only speculating here, what happens if Piedmont and Cherokee County, currently in different classes but close in numbers and geography, wind up in the same region? They traditionally play the football season opener, but now it would be a high-stakes region game; could make for some creative scheduling in Week Zero.

How about this potential blockbuster basketball area – Anniston, Jacksonville, Saks and White Plains? Two good teams are going to stay home at playoff time making all these games playoff caliber. (Spoiler alert: Speculation is that area will be Saks, Jacksonville, White Plains and Ashville).

And where does Randolph County go, north or south? No doubt it’s hoping south, away from the state’s balance of football power.

Hang on until Wednesday – and get to the computer early.

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