NCHSAA Proposes Realignment for High School Athletics

Daulton Bahm, Sports Copy Editor

Major changes will likely take place with the teams Jaguars fans watch beginning the 2017-18 school year as the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) proposed a major realignment of its high school athletic conferences April 21.
This change will result in Athens Drive joining a much smaller conference of only six schools, compared to the nine schools in the current conference. Conferences will be lined up according to the size of the schools: 20 percent of schools will be 4A, the next 30 percent of schools will be 3A, the next 30 percent 2A and the smallest 20 percent will be 1A. In each “A” classification, there will be an eastern, central and western division.
Currently, Athens Drive competes in the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference (SWAC), which consists of Athens Drive, Green Hope, Cary, Panther Creek, Holly Springs, Middle Creek, Apex, Fuquay-Varina and Apex Friendship High Schools. The proposed realignment would have ADHS join a conference including Cary, Green Hope, Panther Creek, Riverside and Jordan High Schools. Athens Drive athletic teams have typically not played Riverside and Jordan High School often, but that could change in fall 2017 with the two Durham high schools potentially entering the new conference.
The new conferences have not yet been named. These new conferences, if approved, will remain in effect until at least 2021. All of the remaining SWAC schools will join Garner Magnet High School to form a new conference. This will result in ADHS sports teams playing these teams significantly less, and the separation of some minor rivalries.
Some people support the conference realignment because it will give schools, including Athens, new teams to play, in addition to a generally simpler alignment of conferences than the current system.
“The 4A six-team leagues are only a problem for nonconference scheduling if there are limited 4A six-team leagues. That’s not the case with this alignment so filling up those six football dates or 10-12 other sport dates should be easier than it has been in the past for smaller leagues,” said D. Clay Best of the Smithfield Herald in support of the new conferences.
Most of the opposition to the realignment plan is due to the fact that a few major rivalries will be separated, such as the Garner vs. Southeast Raleigh football rivalry. However, there are some new rivalries that may be created or enhanced. In addition to the rivalry separations, some of the new conferences will result in increased driving distances, which costs more in fuel and can make athletes come home very late at night.
“We are very disappointed that the preliminary conferences ignore the local rivalries, they ignore travel time, and they ignore the student-athletes’ time in the classroom,” Surry Central High School Athletic Director Myles Wilmoth said in an interview with Mt. Airy News. “Schools with comparable size are within 15 minutes from (Surry Central), but we have to drive hours away.”
However, Best does not see the rivalry separation as a big problem.
“I don’t see a lot in my region that goes away, aside from the young Cleveland vs. Corinth Holders league rivalry and the Garner-Southeast football one. But we’re gaining Cleveland-Clayton, Cleveland-West Johnston, Garner-Middle Creek, and reclaiming the really old Clayton-Smithfield-Selma and the younger West-SSS rivalry,” said Best.
The new conferences will result in a major change of the teams that schools will be playing, which will cause some rivalry separations as well as new rivalries created. This will change the way playoff berths are decided. Changes often take a long time get used to, but eventually the new conferences will become part of tradition.