Just when we had finished the first high school sports season in the "new era" of Virginia High School League (VHSL) Reclassification, the decks are about to be shuffled again.
It's the apparent result of both previously scheduled adjustments and concerns arising from a host of schools from across the Commonwealth.
Since the new alignment debuted last August, it was known that, every two years, adjustments to Conference and Regions would have to be made as school population levels fluctuated, new schools opened, and, in one case, two schools merging. The entire premise of the new 6A classification system was built on competition between schools with similar enrollment figures, with the hopes of more fair and equitable opportunities for all teams to compete for state championships, which in most sports were expanded from three to six.
In conjunction with the scheduled June 25 meeting amongst VHSL and individual school officials concerning the next alignment cycle, regions were able to express concerns about not just conference alignments, but other issues as well. One voiced multiple times was the way classifications, and the number of schools in each of the six, were divided. Another, not unexpected, was the new costs some schools are incurring with the new system.
When the 5A North representative, Stan Clements of Massaponax High School spoke, he noted that Patrick Henry had requested to be moved so that "all county schools would be in the same conference." After being in Conference 11 in a nine-team format that included Atlee and Lee-Davis, in the initial 2012 conference alignment, Patrick Henry then requested a move out of that conference, and the 5A South Region, to Conference 16 in 5A North, which, at the time, was just a three-team entity. Thus, this request is a "back to the future" move. In the end, it was only partially proposed (more below).
The concerns are not just in our area. C.D. Hylton High School wanted Conferences 4 and 8, which are in completely different regions of the 6A Classification, to merge for "financial and travel reasons for all Prince William County Schools".
At the April 8th meeting of this group, a "10 percent parameter" was proposed, using this "cushion" to make adjustments to the next cycle of conference and region assignments once the March 31, 2014 school enrollment figures were released. Most regions opposed the idea, and it was voted down in June by an 11-2 vote (Atlee principal Jennifer Cohodas, representing the 5A South Region, voted no, having supported it.)
Then, in another twist, the old met the new, as a motion was made and approved unaminously, to "move" Patrick Henry from the Colonial to the Capital District, in exchange for Glen Allen High School. Immediately, the question begs itself, why worry about District alignments that were part of the old system? It gives indication that the VHSL will allow schools to continue allowing "regular season district play" prior to teams moving into Conference and Region tournaments through 2016-17. Some had believed district schedules continued in play just during the current two-year cycle (2013-14 and 2014-15) to allow schools more time to prepare for the complete changeover to the Conference format, meaning new opponents, rivalries, and in some cases, new travel costs.
So, when the proposed 2015-16 and 2016-17 Conference and Region alignments were released, so were new "proposed" District alignments.
If districts are "gone", why propose changes for another cycle? In the November 13, 2012 committee meeting, VHSL Executive Director Ken Tilley referred to districts such as the Capital and Colonial as "going out of existence".
So, from our cursory look at the minutes from the June 25th meeting, it looks like regular seasons for the foreseeable future will consist of "district" schedules from the past for many schools, changes for some, and more postseason Conference Tournament Games between teams who never see each other in regular season play. There are also some proposals that will end postseason matchups that survived the initial change to the new system.
To keep rivalries and cut down costs? It's certainly possible. It's also possible there's just not completely cemented agreement on the new system.
We certainly invite comment from anyone on the VHSL Alignment Committee. Appeals by schools to the proposed new alignment plan must be in the League office by July 24th. The Committee meets again August 11th and will submit a final alignment plan for approval on September 17th.
Here's the link to the proposed 2015-16, 2016-17 Region and Conference Alignments: CLICK HERE
Here are the proposed NEW Conferences which would be voted upon in September, taking effect in the Fall of 2015 (teams moved in bold with former Conference/Region (if applicable) in parenthesis):
Clover Hill (12, 5A South)
James River (Midlothian)
Manchester (12, 5A South)
Glen Allen (20, 4A South)
J.R. Tucker (20, 4A South)
Halifax (3, 6A South)
Highland Springs (11)
Varina (3, 6A South)
Atlee (11, 5A South)
Deep Run (11, 5A South)
Mills Godwin (11, 5A South)
Huguenot (26, 3A East)
--Conference 3 would become a seven-team conference, up from six, with five of the schools from Chesterfield County, Clover Hill and Manchester moving up in classification.
--Conference 11 would shrink by two to a six-team conference, with Glen Allen and J.R. Tucker joining close county neighbors Hermitage and Douglas Freeman. Lee-Davis would be the only non-Henrico school, now the "loner" in Hanover County.
--Conference 12 moves to seven teams, adding Halifax, and both Highland Springs and Varina, looking to keep those two Eastern Henrico rivals together now that they are in the same classification (Varina moving down from 6A)
--Conference 16 adds two teams, and three new members as Halifax departs. Atlee joins Patrick Henry, with far West End schools Deep Run and Mills Godwin joining them, ending postseason Conference games between, for example, the 2014 Conference 11 Baseball Championship between archrivals Douglas Freeman and Mills Godwin.
--Conference 20 is lessened by one to six teams, says goodbye to Glen Allen and J.R. Tucker (as well as Caroline) and adds Huguenot (moving up a classification) and Powhatan from a now-imploded Conference 19.
REMINDER: This is a proposal. Nothing is set in stone for the next cycle until, at the earliest, September 17th.