By Tommy Keeler Jr.
Next year the Virginia High School League will have a six-classification system. It finally became official Tuesday morning at the Group Boards membership meeting in Charlottesville.
All of the schools in attendance voted on the new system and there needed to be 2/3 against it to overturn it. There were 189 for it and 110 for delaying it for a couple years.
"I think the big concern that a lot of people that got up and spoke against it today had was there's a lot of uncertainty," Central athletic director Kenny Rinker said. "They brought up things about travel. They brought up things about weather, not having time enough. They kept saying seven months, we have from now until June to get all this put together. There was one lady that got up and spoke, from Albemarle I believe it was, who said. 'When is there enough time?.'
"The triple-A schools weren't saying that they were opposed, they were saying it was rushed and there wasn't enough time. Of course, her comment was are we still not going to have the same travel issues? Are we still going to have snow and tornadoes and earthquakes and whatever else that goes on? I think basically the feeling was this is something that over the years has been looked at and looked at and looked at, and is there a right time? I think the feeling was this is the right time."
It's been a long process to make it happen. They started working on the plan last December, and it was voted on and approved by the VHSL executive committee last month.
Strasburg athletic director Matt Hiserman said he's glad it's finally official.
"I'm just glad it's settled," Hiserman said. "Our district was for it, our region was for it. There's pros and cons to stay like we were. There's pros and cons to go where we're going."
Currently there are three classifications, but by adding more classes it will make the schools more balanced in terms of the number of students at each school. In most of the classes there will be a difference of no more than 400 students from the top to the bottom of the class.
There will be six champions in most of the sports beginning next year.
One of the biggest changes is that the VHSL has added conferences to the playoff system. Each school will be in a district, and will play in its district during the regular season like it has in the past. Districts can have teams from as many as three different classes. It will be up to each district as to whether or not they want to have a district tournament.
Football will be the only exception to this, as football will be done mostly like it is in Group A right now, with 16 teams advancing in each section.
For all the other sports, postseason play will begin with the conference tournaments, which are generally from five to eight schools in the same classification. Every school will play in the conference tournament. The top two teams from the conference tournament advance to the regional tournament.
There will be two regions in each class, and the top two teams from each region then advance to the state semifinals. There will no longer be eight teams advancing to state tournaments.
Not much will change for area teams regarding districts with the new six-classification system. Warren County will move into the Bull Run District, and every other school will remain in their current district.
Sherando will be in the 4A class, and will compete in the North Region in Conference 21 with Millbrook, James Wood, Woodgrove, Loudoun County, Dominion, Heritage and Park View.
Central, Skyline and Warren County will be 3A class schools and will be in Conference 28 in the East Region along with Loudoun Valley, William Monroe and John Champe.
Stonewall Jackson and Strasburg will be 2A class schools and will be in Conference 35 in the East Region along with Clarke County, Madison County, George Mason, Luray and Page County.
After making the six-classification system official Tuesday, each classification met and then each region also met.
Rinker said that the 3A class East Region met three weeks ago to begin discussion about moving forward. They started to discuss committees to formulate handbooks, cost of admission, officials, electing officers and assigning athletic directors to work different regional tournaments. It's just a small start in the process that will go on to get everything organized for next year.
"There's a lot of things that need to be worked out, a lot of details," Rinker said, "a lot of questions to be answered. It's obvious it's going to be six, so now the work really begins and working out all the details."
One of the biggest questions to be decided is if the districts will play district tournaments.
"It's a hard thing to decide," Hiserman said. "You want to still do district tournaments, maybe. But in our case, do we want to turn around and play in a tournament game where we could play George Mason, Madison and Clarke in three rounds? And then turn around in a conference tournament and play them and then turn around the next week in a regional tournament and play one of them. You gotta decide where do you draw the line with how many extra games do you put on kids?"
Hiserman has already come up with a plan as to how district schedules will work for next year, he just needs to plug in some dates. He said that football is already done, and the district schedule will look similar to this year. Warren County will replace John Champe on most of the teams' football schedules, and Warren County will play Strasburg in the next to last week, where they currently have a bye. Hiserman said that the biggest changes for Strasburg will be with non-district football games. Strasburg will play Stonewall Jackson, East Rockingham and James Wood because Luray and Page County dropped them.
"It's going to be tough for us," Hiserman said. "The other aspect, East Rockingham and James Wood will bring a lot of people to the games. So, that's a good thing."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org